Council to investigate ‘administrative error’
More than 2,000 frustrated residents have signed a petition against a borough council decision removing half-hour parking provision near Tonbridge Castle, which they claim penalises working parents and sends out mixed messages during the town’s regeneration.
Lucy Stringer, who started the campaign last week, says the revised car parking charges, which also raise hourly rates by 10p, come at precisely the wrong time as works improving the High Street enter a final phase, and they significantly increase the cost of picking up her young children from school.
The council, which faces a total of £1.8million shortfall in Government funding over the next four years, originally said the rise was necessary after a two-year price freeze.
But since the petition was launched the council has now discovered an ‘administrative error’ regarding the Castle Field car parks that needs to be addressed urgently.
Robert Styles, Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s director of street scene, leisure and technical services, said the wider parking price increases for the town had been the first in two years, but added that the Upper Castle Field Car Park increase had been adjusted incorrectly.
He said: “The price increase for Upper Castle Field was an administrative error for which we apologise, and we will look to get this changed back within weeks.”
Mrs Stringer said: “The minimum charge for parking there is now £1.20, when it had been 50p for half an hour – which is all I needed to pick up my children from school. While you can get a permit for morning parking, this just penalises working parents who need to collect kids who are doing after-school clubs.
“I’ve been paying £20 a month for parking. The increased charges mean I will be paying £48, which is ridiculous.” Mrs Stringer has been encouraged by how quickly residents reacted to her petition and added: “We can accept the 10p rise in parking, but what we want is the half-hour charge brought back again.
“The whole idea of regenerating Tonbridge was to try and attract people here, as not everyone wants to stay for an hour.
Mark Burrows, a Tonbridge recruitment consultant, shares her concerns and described the car parking increase as ‘another kick in the teeth for residents’.
He said: “There seems to be no reason for the change apart from making more money. It does bring into focus the whole parking situation in Tonbridge. To encourage more people to come to Tonbridge town centre, they should be reducing car park charges.
“With the planned new retail units in Cannon Lane, it will drive people to those instead of popping down the high street unless we are going to see charges introduced for parking there. We seem to have very confused policies on what is best for Tonbridge to drive people to shop in the area rather than Tunbridge Wells or Maidstone.”