A date has been announced for the end of the ‘Free after 3’ car parking in the Cotswolds.
The scheme, which offers free parking after 3pm in six car parks across the district will end on April 4.
Earlier this year Cotswold District Council‘s Liberal Democrat administration voted to stop it, saying it was something they could no longer afford to do.
But the move, expected to raise an extra £350,000 in revenue, has prompted anger from some business owners and opposition councillors.
Which car parks are impacted?
The ‘Free after 3’ scheme is currently in place in the Brewery and Forum car parks in Cirencester, West Street and Church Street in Tetbury, Maugersbury Road in Stow-on-the-Wold and Old Market Way in Moreton-in-Marsh.
What is the new policy?
All Cotswold district car parks will now be operated at the same times on Mondays to Saturdays, with charging from 8 am to 6 pm.
It will remain free to park on Sundays in district council car parks except those in Bourton-on-the-Water and Stow-on-the-Wold.
Free parking during the evening and overnight continues in all car parks.
Why has this decision been made?
‘Free after 3’ was introduced in 2015, back when the council was under Conservative control, when there was a shortage of parking spaces in Cirencester due to maintenance work in the Forum car park.
Cotswold District Council argue that cuts to Government funding mean they are under pressure to balance their budget and can no longer afford to give parking away.
They also point to the budget consultation where residents indicated they would prefer the scheme to be scrapped than for charges to introduced in the evenings, overnight or on Sundays.
However, critics say the consultation cannot be used as a basis to make policy decisions due to the low number of responses received.
Councillor Mike Evemy, deputy leader of the council and cabinet member for finance, said: “Our core Government funding has been cut by around 60 per cent over the past 10 years.
“We are also facing inflationary pressures on our finances and the costs of our services, so we must plan ahead if we are to protect and improve our car parks.
“By making changes to our car parking charging, including charging after 3 pm in all our car parks, we will be able to support our services while investing in the modernisation of our car parks.
“We have plans to make upgrades by installing more electric vehicle charging points and we will be completely refurbishing the Rissington Road car park in Bourton-on-the-Water.
“The decision to change parking charges is not one we take lightly. However, due to the constraints on the Council’s finances, we need to make tough choices if we are to manage our budget effectively and continue to invest in our car parks.”