Shopkeepers slam January hike in Hunts parking charges

CHARGES in Huntingdonshire’s council car parks are set to rise again in January, in some cases by 60 per cent – infuriating small business leaders.

On-street parking will also increase from the present 30p an hour, which has not changed for several years.

Doubling parking revenue was a component of Huntingdonshire District Council’s strategy to offset a �5million funding shortfall resulting from last year’s cut in Whitehall support for local authorities.

In short-stay town centre car parks in Huntingdon, St Ives and St Neots, the basic hourly charge will rise from 50p to 60p during the first two hours, and the three-hour charge will increase from �2 to �2.20 and the maximum four-hour rate from �3 to �3.20.

Charges in edge-of-town-centre car parks will be the same as town centre parks for the first two hours but longer stays will be much more expensive.

Stays of three hours will cost motorists 50 per cent more (�1.80 compared with �1.20 now) while a four-hour visit will go up 60 per cent from �1.50 to �2.40. The all-day charge will rise by 50 per cent to �3.

Most long-stay rates will increase by 50 per cent, although the all-day rate barely changes, increasing from �1.50 to �1.60.

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On-street parking, at the north end of Huntingdon High Street and in the centres of St Ives and St Neots, is restricted to one hour, which will cost 50p from January, instead of the present 30p.

Annual permits for residents, both on-street and off-street, will cost �50 – almost a doubling for on-street permits, which currently cost �26.

The only car parks to escape increases are those at St Neots Riverside and Hinchingbrooke Country Park, where charging was introduced a year ago.

At St Neots Riverside, where councillors complain the part-free car parking regime is confusing and the two free hours in just 38 spaces inadequate for leisure use, the prospect of reversing the decision to charge will be included in the next parking review in the new year.

The use of HDC’s car parks in Ramsey remains free.

Malcolm Lyons, Huntongdonshire chairman of the Federation of Small Business, whose members include many shopkeepers, was furious.

He said: “It’s appalling at a time when people’s wages are going down that they put the charges up. They never listen. It’s a discouragement from using the town centres.

“They should keep the first two hours down to encourage people to do their shopping in the market towns, and put up longer-term charges.

“For local people, it’s the first two hours that are important. I say to the council: if you need to save �2m, don’t take it out on the electorate.”

HDC’s deputy leader, Councillor Nick Guyatt, has pledged a town-by-town review of charges next year. Increases tend to lead to a short-term fall-off in revenue, but usage soon returns to previous levels, he added.