View across East Kent: Parking Charges

February 16, 2012 11:21 AM

In the first of three posts looking at East Kent councils, TPA supporter Ian Taylor examines the vexed issue of parking charges.

As we learn more about the financial intentions of our local district councils, it is becoming apparent that residents of East Kent face a taxing time. Here I shall examine and compare three of them: Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council and Shepway District Council (which for those outside the area covers Folkestone, Hythe and the Romney Marsh).

Currently the big local story in Shepway is parking charges. The council has produced a strategy – currently under consultation – that involves introducing on-street restrictions and charges for the first time, including virtually 'blanket' residential permits in the towns. In their defence, they also intend to reduce (slightly at least) some off-street charges. Nonetheless, the scheme has met with huge and vocal opposition. No less than three parish referendums have been triggered (in Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe), all of which overwhelmingly rejected the scheme. The local MP is opposed to it, local political parties have been quick to try and jump on the bandwagon, and local traders fear for their future well-being.

Meanwhile, in Dover, some parking charges (in 'peripheral' car parks) are going up by 10p to £1 an hour. They are not the highest charges in Kent, but in the current economic climate a rise of over 10 per cent is very hefty. Dover has charged a limited amount of on-street parking (through meters) for several years.

In Canterbury, all the parking charges are going up by 10p to £1.10 an hour. Their CEO, Colin Carmichael, told the local press that their policy is to deliberately make car parking in the city centre expensive and scarce to discourage car journeys. The council operates Park & Ride, and clearly they want us to enter the city using one of their buses, rather than our own cars.

Councils that are using parking for general revenue raising are walking a very fine line of what is legal and what is not. The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 basically says that parking regulations are supposed to be revenue neutral and any surpluses should be spent on “transport related purposes and other environmental schemes”. The wording of “environmental schemes” is open to interpretation and with very careful accounting might justify ever increasing revenue gathering, but this was not the intention of Parliament, and certainly is not in the “spirit” of the legislation.

What concerns me the most though is with so many out-of-town shopping developments offering free parking, and of course competition from the Internet, they may find they have priced themselves, and local traders, out of the market.In the first of three posts looking at East Kent councils, TPA supporter Ian Taylor examines the vexed issue of parking charges.

As we learn more about the financial intentions of our local district councils, it is becoming apparent that residents of East Kent face a taxing time. Here I shall examine and compare three of them: Canterbury City Council, Dover District Council and Shepway District Council (which for those outside the area covers Folkestone, Hythe and the Romney Marsh).

Currently the big local story in Shepway is parking charges. The council has produced a strategy – currently under consultation – that involves introducing on-street restrictions and charges for the first time, including virtually 'blanket' residential permits in the towns. In their defence, they also intend to reduce (slightly at least) some off-street charges. Nonetheless, the scheme has met with huge and vocal opposition. No less than three parish referendums have been triggered (in Folkestone, Sandgate and Hythe), all of which overwhelmingly rejected the scheme. The local MP is opposed to it, local political parties have been quick to try and jump on the bandwagon, and local traders fear for their future well-being.

Meanwhile, in Dover, some parking charges (in 'peripheral' car parks) are going up by 10p to £1 an hour. They are not the highest charges in Kent, but in the current economic climate a rise of over 10 per cent is very hefty. Dover has charged a limited amount of on-street parking (through meters) for several years.

In Canterbury, all the parking charges are going up by 10p to £1.10 an hour. Their CEO, Colin Carmichael, told the local press that their policy is to deliberately make car parking in the city centre expensive and scarce to discourage car journeys. The council operates Park & Ride, and clearly they want us to enter the city using one of their buses, rather than our own cars.

Councils that are using parking for general revenue raising are walking a very fine line of what is legal and what is not. The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 basically says that parking regulations are supposed to be revenue neutral and any surpluses should be spent on “transport related purposes and other environmental schemes”. The wording of “environmental schemes” is open to interpretation and with very careful accounting might justify ever increasing revenue gathering, but this was not the intention of Parliament, and certainly is not in the “spirit” of the legislation.

What concerns me the most though is with so many out-of-town shopping developments offering free parking, and of course competition from the Internet, they may find they have priced themselves, and local traders, out of the market.

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