Council to net £1m from Weston parking

PUBLISHED: 09:50 24 June 2013 | UPDATED: 10:29 24 June 2013

North Somerset Council say money raised will go towards road improvements

North Somerset Council say money raised will go towards road improvements

James Franklin

NORTH Somerset Council is set to pocket more than £1million from Weston motorists in parking charges this year, the Mercury can reveal.

Drivers will contribute a seven-figure sum to the authority’s coffers in 2013, leading to calls for the town’s council tax-payers to be reimbursed.

Critics said Weston was the council’s ‘golden goose’ with 96 per cent of the authority’s parking revenue coming from the town.

The figures, obtained through a Freedom of Information request by the Mercury, come as the council considers extending its on-street parking zones and converting the Grove Park tennis courts into a car park.

Cllr Elfan Ap Rees, executive member for transport for the council, defended the figures by saying profit ‘was not the main motive’ with the cash generated going towards other projects such as road maintenance.

Weston’s council-operated car parks raised £370,000 between December and April while Weston’s on-street parking charges raked in nearly £87,000.

If tickets are sold at the same rate for the rest of the year, motorists in Weston will hand over nearly £1.1million in fees.

The council operates two paid-for car parks outside Weston but the pair, both located in Clevedon, made just £16,400 between them during the same period.

Labour councillor Richard Tucker said Weston is subsidising free parking enjoyed in the north of the district.

He said: “Residents in Weston have had to pay for off-street parking for years and now we have the added burden of on-street charging.

“I have no problem with tourists paying to park, though we should at least look at reduced charges for our local taxpayers.”

Cllr Mike Bell, leader of the council’s Liberal Democrat, said the off-peak season figures were ‘extraordinary’.

He said: “We’ve known for some time that Weston is treated by the council as the golden goose that just keeps on laying, insofar as car parking.

“Not only is it totally unfair that Weston’s residents and visitors pay while others around the district do not, but there is real evidence that it is hurting our economy.

“High parking charges are doing nothing to encourage people to invest or visitors and tourists to come.”

Cllr Bell said short-stay on-street parking spaces had helped with the turnover of vehicles but are penalising people living within the 27-street zone.

North Somerset has sold only 27 permits to residents, allowing them an extra hour’s parking in the morning and evening.

Residential roads such as Alma Street, Hopkins Street and Alfred Street made the lowest amount of money and Cllr Bell called for the council to scrap charges there.

The council has promised to conduct a review of on-street parking charges before the end of the summer.

Cllr Ap Rees said the money would go towards improving roads in the district with ‘at least another £1million’ required each year to stop the road network from deteriorating. He also said the parking revenue figure fails to recognise the expenditure spent on maintaining car parks.

He added: “Feedback clearly shows the majority of town centre businesses, North Somerset residents and visitors are delighted with it, as shoppers can now get to park easily near the shops they want to visit.

“It is easy for opposition politicians to criticise but they did nothing to help improve the situation when they had a chance and of course have no financial responsibility now.”

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