Tunbridge Wells is set to become Kent’s most expensive town for parking after the council proposed to hike its charges by up to 29 per cent.
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council wants to raise the standard hourly rate in its town centre car parks to £1.80 from its current tariff of £1.40. Those who use the PaybyPhone service will be charged £1.40, up from £1.20.
Should the Cabinet give the go-ahead on September 15, it would make the town’s car parks more expensive than all others managed by local authorities in Kent. In the local region, only Crawley (£2.50 per hour) has a higher hourly rate.
The council says the increase will raise at least £450,000, with another £32,000 gained by increasing night tariffs to £1.50 (currently £1).
John Sayer, who represents West Kent for the Kent Invicta Chamber of Commerce, said: “I go to Tunbridge Wells three times a week and already have to pay £1.40 an hour, yet in Sevenoaks I pay just £1.
“This extravagant rise is unfair. Don’t they want to encourage people to come to the town centre? If public transport was better it would not be so important, but it’s not.
He added: “What may happen is that instead of people coming in three times a month, they may come in just the once.
“There are a lot of people working in Tunbridge Wells who have to park at the public car parks and it will make it more expensive for them.
“If they put it up 10p, people would still be annoyed but it would be easier to take. This is typical council greed.”
William Bailey, who manages gentleman’s outfitters Bailey’s in Mount Pleasant Road, said: “A lot of older people drive here and increasing parking charges is not going to encourage them.”
Elizabeth Davenport-Fry lives in Goudhurst but visits Tunbridge Wells every week to go shopping. “It is ridiculous,” she said.
“This is all about money and they are trying to fleece us at a time when we are in a sort-of recession. More people now shop online and this will not encourage people to come here and shop on foot.”
Abigail Duffin, a supervisor at clothing designer shop Phase Eight in Mount Pleasant Road, said: “It affects business. There have often been times when customers have to run out of the shop quickly because their parking has run out and we don’t always see them again to close the sale.
“With fuel and insurance, driving is expensive as it is, without more costs.”
However, the council believes the move is justified in order to improve infrastructure and make up for the cuts in central government funding.
A report by the Planning and Transportation Cabinet Advisory Board, which will discuss the issue on August 22, says: “As the local economy continues to thrive the demand for parking space both in car parks and on-street exceeds supply.
“This often results in a frustration for residents and visitors that needs to be redressed, albeit there is no quick or simple solution.
“The lack of finance resulting from reduced Government funding means that we have to raise more revenue to help us improve our infrastructure, reduce congestion, improve traffic flow and address other areas of public concern; for example, footway parking, as well as provide investment for additional parking space.
It adds that the proposals will ‘allow us to continue to maintain a thriving economy by providing facilities that match demand’.
SEASON TICKET HOLDERS TO BE HIT BY HIGHER RATES
Annual season tickets at some car parks would increase by up to £100 a year as part of the council’s proposal.
These include Crescent Road, Meadow Road, Great Hall and Mount Pleasant Avenue (new price £1,050), Beech Street and Camden Road (£1,005) and Calverley Terrace (£1,160).
Paddock Wood car park would increase by £50 to £800 and three resident-only car parks in High Brooms, Stone Street and Warwick Road are all going up by £25.
Prices at John Street and Yew Tree Road would be frozen but residents’ on-street permits will increase from £60 to £80.
The council says it will use the £57,000 raised from this scheme to improvement residents’ schemes.
Residents living in town centre zones A, B, C, D and G would have to pay £80, up from £60, for their residential on-street permits.
HOW THE TOWN COMPARES
Crawley, West Sussex (County Mall) £2.50
Tunbridge Wells (Royal Victoria Place and Meadow Road) £1.80
Canterbury (Whitefriars) £1.70
Maidstone (Fremlin Walk) £1.70
Margate (Dreamland) £1.60
Sevenoaks (Bligh’s Meadow) £1.50
Folkestone (Bouverie Place) £1.30
Tonbridge (Angel) £1.20
Guildford (all in town centre) £1.20
Bromley (civic centre) £1.20
Hastings (Priory Street) £1.20
Tenterden (Bridewell Lane) £1
Chatham (Brook Pentagon) 90p
Ashford (Civic Centre) 80p
East Grinstead (all in town centre) 80p
Gravesend (Parrock Street) 80p
Dartford (Orchards) 50p
Westerham (town centre) Free
Cranbrook (town centre) Free