Changes to car parking charges approved after heated debate

A controversial review of car parking charges has been approved after a heated debate, which divided coastal councillors’ opinions from those in market towns.

Coun Tony Bridges’ proposals to increase charges and cut free parking is intended to improve equality across the district while earning the council £400,000 extra a year.

Speaking at Tedder Hall on Wednesday he said: “It’s about fairness across the district, protecting frontline services and making bold decisions when we have to.”

Councillors in coastal resorts such as Skegness, previously home to the district’s highest parking charges, have welcomed the review and its attempts to address inequality.

The Mayor of Skegness Coun Mark Anderson said: “I represent one of the most deprived wards in East Lindsey, yet my constituents have been paying car parking charges for many years - I too would love to see free parking for my constituents but I think we need to be realistic and recognise there have to be some difficult decisions made.”

Market town councillors, however, feared the introduction of charges to previously free car parks would be damaging to businesses.

Two petition, signed by thousands of Louth, Coningsby and Woodhall Spa residents were also presented, urging for more than one hour free parking.

And Alford ward holder Coun Jean Bradley feared the above inflationary price rises, would hinder the town’s vibrancy.

Though understanding of the resentment to price rises, Coun Phil Kemp reminded opponents of the necessity to generate more income to offset funding cuts.

He said: “The whole reason for this is to make price changes that will affect the funding gap this council will be facing.”

Portfolio holder for finance Coun John Upsall said an eight per cent council tax increase would be necessary to generate the same income, which he felt would provoke even greater resentment.

An innovative long-term approach to bridge the gap by generating income from solar panels installed at car parks, was suggested by Coun Larua Stephenson.

Her amendment to investigate the possibility of introducing the renewable technology, which Coun Tony Howard said was ‘radical, revolutionary and outside the box’ won the overall support of councillors, who agreed to a small scale trial.

Coun Steve O’Dare also won an amendment to allow free parking for leisure centre users, which portfolio holder for culture leisure and tourism Coun Adam Grist hoped would promote healthy lifestyles.

Spilsby area councillor Jim Swanson was grateful an hour’s free parking had been retained at the town’s Post Office car park.

He and other councillors had expressed concerns that its removal would be unfair on the many doctors’ surgery patients who use it to pick up prescriptions or attend appointments.