New parking charges will “cripple the town” says councillor

Tebbutts Road car park in St Neots

Tebbutts Road car park in St Neots - Credit: Archant

A town councillor from St Neots has said new parking charges imposed by the district council will “cripple the town” if they go ahead in the next few weeks.

Councillor Barry Chapman says he is "disgusted" at the new parking charge schedule that will be coming to the town, saying it would "deter people from visiting the High Street".

The new charges, which were approved by Huntingdonshire District Council (HDC) in February, will see car parks such as Tebbutts Road change to "long stay", meaning drivers will have to pay for a minimum two-hour stay, scrapping the option to pay for an hour.

The district council says the new 'pay for what you use' system will allow visitors to pay for parking when they return to their vehicle, to the nearest 15 minutes, rather than pay per hour block.

Currently at the Tebbuts Road car park, staying for up to an hour costs 80p, two hours costs £1.20, three hours costs £2.20 and four hours costs £3.10.

Under the new structure it will be £1.60 for two hours, increasing in increments of 10p per 15 minutes up to a maximum of £4 for 23 hours.

In short stay car parks, such as Tan Yard, an hour's stay would cost £1, an hour and 15 minutes would cost £1.20, an hour and 30 minutes would cost £1.40, an hour and 45 minutes would cost £1.60, and so on - adding 20p per 15 minutes up to a maximum of £3.40 for four hours in short stay car parks.

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The new structure also allows drivers to pay for parking with their bank card, or on a phone app.

However, Cllr Chapman has said that scrapping the one hour parking charge will deter people visiting the town to do small jobs, such as going to the doctors and having a hair cut.

He said: "I find this absolutely disgusting; this will kill St Neots High Street if nothing is done. You now have to pay for two hours if you want to pop into town, which makes the price rise up to £1.60, which for me will be a big game changer.

"I really don't think that this has been thought through. If you use this car park regularly this will be a huge increase. We are always going on about how we need to shop local and how much businesses in the area are struggling, but then do something like this. I am really appalled by what has happened and hope that people in the town will stand up to the charges."

The new car parking charges for Tebbutts Road will come into effect on August 28.

In February, the Hunts Post reported that, according to the district council's projected budget for 2019/20, it hoped to raise an additional £225,000 through the new car park charges, with £300,000 raised annually from 2020/21 onwards.

However, according to town councillor Stephen Ferguson, motorists will see a 100 per cent increase in charges for a minimum stay in Tebbutts Road.

He said: "By increasing parking charges by 100 per cent for [minimum stay] parking, and 33 per cent for long stay parking, HDC Conservatives have betrayed their manifesto commitment to support retail in our market towns. What is worse is that they have tried to hide these increases under the guise of a 'pay as you go' flexible parking scheme that ends up being significantly more expensive for all users."

However, the district council has defended the decision, saying the changes were up for debate during previous council meetings.

A spokesman for Huntingdonshire District Council said: "The implementation of the new pay for what you use parking strategy is beginning to be rolled out across the district, after a successful pilot scheme in Huntingdon. The forthcoming changes have been subject to a full and open debate through the council's democratic processes including, overview and scrutiny committee in February."

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