THE cost of parking is to rise by as much as a third in Tunbridge Wells after a raft of rate hikes was approved by the council cabinet on Thursday (December 1).
The steepest increases will be for on-street permit holders, with annual prices set to jump from £60 to £80 during the next financial year.
It is predicted the higher price will generate an extra £57,000 in revenue for the council.
This additional income is to be ‘ring-fenced’ and reinvested into resident’s parking. This will include, a lengthened ‘permit only’ parking time every day, additional enforcement ‘to prevent abuse’ and provide ‘easier to find space closer to home’. There are also plans to extend the areas covered by permit schemes into areas currently not covered.
Despite the reinvestment, the price rise has been criticised by Jane Fenwick, chair of the Town Forum’s Transport Working Group, whose role is to scrutinise the council’s proposals.
Ms Fenwick said: “We welcome that some of these ideas were adopted in the final parking strategy.
“However, the very significant increase in residents parking permits is to be regretted especially as the parking strategy did not indicate that these zone by zone improvements would come at the cost of such a large increase in residents parking permit fees. In effect, residents have no choice but to pay up.”
Price rises are not just restricted to permit holders, with car park charges also due to rise as the council seeks additional revenue both to reinvest into parking and make up for cuts in its government grant.
Council documents state: “Although revenue from parking helps fund the improvements to our parking, lack of finance resulting from reduced government funding means that we have to depend on revenue from parking to continue with infrastructure projects.”
Paying by machine at a car park will cost an additional 20p for the first hour, rising to £1.60. Paying by phone will rise by 10p to £1.30.
Prices across all tariffs on machine payments are due to increase by nine per cent, while average prices on pay by phone will go up by five per cent.
Additional annual revenue for the council is expected to be around £450,000, with some of the money earmarked for car park improvements such as; replacement payment machines that also allow people to pay when they leave the car park by contactless card payment; Wifi to allow easier use of pay-by-phone and the resurfacing and relining of floors.
Commenting on the rate increases, Liberal Democrat councillor Ben Chapelard, who attended the Cabinet meeting, said: “We welcome that the Borough Council is not claiming any reason for increasing permit charges other than raising more money for the council’s coffers. In the past TWBC have tried to dress up charge increases.
“We have concerns about the impact of raising parking charges on our local businesses who can’t spread losses over a number of branches. There is unprecedented economic uncertainty since Brexit and I fear the worst is yet to come so we need to be careful not to discourage people from shopping in Tunbridge Wells.
“We oppose residents’ parking permits rising by 33 per cent as residents are held to ransom by the council. This will raise £57k for parking improvements were are told even though there is £129k already set aside for residents parking.”
What the council say:
“Residents’ permit prices will increase to £80 from April 2017, the first increase since April 2012. The weekly cost of a permit will be equivalent to around £1.50 per week and will also allow permit holders to park free of charge overnight in the multi-storey car parks in Royal Tunbridge Wells. The additional revenue will enable us to begin implementing measures outlined in the Parking Strategy which seek to reduce congestion by allowing permit holders to park closer to their homes at key times of the day and to apply restrictions consistently across permit zones including increased permit only parking time every day.”