Residents and visitors in Louth face a wave of parking fee rises, as well as having to pay to park in the Cattle Market under newly approved plans.
Councillors from East Lindsey District Council voted 36-8 at Wednesday’s full council meeting to press ahead with the controversial proposals to ‘balance’ charges across the district from April of this year.
Under the new policy, motorists face a daily £3 charge to park in the currently free Cattle Market, the introduction of fees on Sundays, and 20p increases in all other car parks.
In a fiery debate lasting nearly three hours, councillors from Louth and Horncastle wrestled with the issue against their coastal counterparts who spoke of ‘unfair’ charges faced by tourists to their resorts.
In the lead up to the meeting, ELDC faced a backlash of public outcry, with 2,624 people signing a petition led by Louth businessman Gary Denniss in a bid to dissuade councillors.
But in the end, councillors were wary of a £400,000 ‘black hole’ in next month’s budget which they were satisfied will be filled by the new charges.
Coun Mark Anderson, of Skegness St Clements ward, said it was ‘unfair’ that motorists had had to pay to park in Skegness ‘for years’. “We have to be realistic, there has to be some tough decisions,” he said.
Coun Ray Curtis, of Coningsby, accused Skegness of ‘getting everything’, adding: “Skegness still asks for more and everyone else has to pay for it.”
Coun Terry Knowles, of Grimoldby, added his belief that the charges were ‘reasonable’ but Coun George Horton said: “Louth Town Partnership has made Louth into Britain’s favourite market town, and all the work we’ve done will take a backward step if this gets the go ahead.”
The council’s leader, Coun Doreen Stephenson, angrily responded to the suggestions that Louth was being shortchanged, saying ELDC had put ‘huge investment’ into the town.
‘I don’t want to put local businesses in jeopardy’
Louth’s Mayor Coun Jill Makinson-Sanders continued the debate. She said: “Our streets are crowded, most of my residents can’t get near their houses and it will make that situation worse.”
Fears were also raised by Mrs Makinson-Sanders that Louth’s businesses could suffer. “Market towns are important, we should be looking at where we can help, it’s not good enough to have this sweeping approach,” she said.
“I don’t want local businesses to be put in jeopardy.”
But Coun Philip Sturman of Louth North Holme Ward said there was ‘no evidence at all’ that trade would suffer as a result of the changes.
“People cannot keep paying the same amount, we have to find the money from somewhere,” added Coun Phil Kemp, while Coun Dick Edginton urged his colleagues to ‘spread the burden’ of government cuts by going ahead with the plan.
Coun Jean Bradley, of Alford, agreed, admitting an increase in car parking charges ‘had to happen’.
“We’ve not had a rise for years,” she said.
Coun Tony Bridges, the portfolio holder for the environment, told the meeting he knew his colleagues faced a ‘major decision’, but reminded the meeting that ELDC charged the lowest council tax in Lincolnshire.
He added that the authority would be in ‘serious trouble’ in the medium term if the hole was not plugged, and that the alternative was to cut frontline services.
Woodhall Spa’s coun Craig Leyland said car parking was a ‘massive issue’ but told the room he was convinced that the danger to businesses had been ‘overegged’.
He said there was to be no hiding place for the council in view of cutbacks in central government funding.
Coun Curtis suggested a deferral of the decision but Coun Steve O’Dare, of Skegness, said that holding off on a verdict would be a ‘disaster’.
Councillors then took the vote and, despite the fervent arguments on both sides, a 36-8 vote in favour of the changes was taken.
ELDC will review the changes in April 2014, where councillors will hope to be proved right that the local economy will not suffer as a result.
What will you pay?
Short and medium stay car parks in Louth, Queen Street, Northgate East, Broadbank, Kidgate and Co-op will see their one hour charge rise 20p to £1 and their two hour charge rise from £1.20 to £1.50.
The long stay car parks in Kiln Lane and Newmarket, including the Cattle Market will be £1 for two hours, £1.50 for four hours, and £3 for all day.
The Cattle Market will be free for the first hour.