Charges for using car parks in the Cotswolds will rise after plans were given the go-ahead last night.
Cotswold District Council’s cabinet approved the car park cost increases across the district as well as other measures such as introducing new 20-minute free bays.
Senior councillors also unanimously backed a proposal last night to delay progress to built a new multi-storey car park in Cirencester for a year.
Council leader Joe Harris said in the meeting last night the charge rises is “is not something we’re relishing or want to do”.
Before the coronavirus pandemic, the authority forecasted it would have a net increase of car park income of £435,000 from a rise in revenue and savings by the end of this financial year.
But the lockdown reduced the car parking income to almost nil across the district which was followed by the suspension of all parking charges, a council document said.
Parking in popular tourist areas of the Cotswolds such as Cirencester and Bourton-on-the-Water will increase by 70p for up to three hour stays – the first increase since 2010.
The cost of one-hour stays in other car parks will increase by 30p in most car parks, and two-hour stays could increase by up to 50p.
The price of season tickets will rise, and the free parking after 3pm in Rissington Car Park, in Bourton-on-the-Water, would be retained.
The changes will come into effect from September 1 this year.
The district council will start encouraging car parking customers to use technology to pay for parking on their mobile phone, rather than touching a pay and display machine to reduce the risk of germs being spread, the council report also said.
A one hour no return policy could be introduced in the Brewery Car Park, in Cirencester, to ensure cars cannot park there all day and protect the spaces for short stay shoppers, the council report said.
The car parks which will see increases are:
The Forum (Cirencester)
Cotswold Leisure Centre (Cirencester)
Old Station (Cirencester)
Sheep Street (Cirencester)
Church Street (Tetbury)
West Street (Tetbury)
Old Market Way (Moreton-in-Marsh)
Maugersbury Road (Stow-on-the-Wold)
Rissington Car Park (Bourton-on-the-Water)
The Chipping Car Park (Tetbury – managed by Cotswold District Council on behalf of a charity which sets the charges).
“We have to take tough decisions” Councillor Joe Harris (LD, St Michael’s) said in the meeting.
“This is not something we’re relishing or we want to do. But we have to take tough decisions, and it’s because we’ve been left a £1million budget blackhole on the previous administration.”
He continued: “The previous administration created a budget that was completely underpinned by car parking charges.”
Responding to Mr Harris in a statement, Conservative group leader Richard Morgan said: “When the Lib Dems won control of the council in May 2019, they inherited cash reserves of £13.2million, property investments of £7.5million and financial market investments of £12.5million.
“The council was debt free, had the 11th lowest district council tax in the country and was consistently under budget year-on-year.
“As the council has such a strong financial base and has also received such a significant amount of government support since the start of the pandemic, there is absolutely no excuse for any reduction in service levels to our residents.”
A council document said: “Car park charges will be reviewed for 2020/21, and thereafter every two years; the budget proposal anticipates that changes will generate around £435,000 in additional net revenue from car parking through both extra income and cost savings. These would include the first increases in parking charges since 2010.
“A schedule of proposed changes to car parking day ticket and season ticket prices were available for the budget consultation. The proposed budget assumes a saving of around £35,000 resulting from the removal of the option to pay by cash at council car parks; this saving is included within the overall additional net revenue of £435,000.
“Free parking after 3pm in all car parks where this is currently in operation will be retained, while new dedicated 20-minute free parking bays will be introduced at some of the council car parks to enable residents to make short trips to the district’s towns free of charge.”