Sunday charges are set to be introduced in car parks in Ottery St Mary, Honiton and Axminster – with an overnight levy also lined up across East Devon.
The district council’s current tariffs already treat Sundays as a normal trading day in coastal areas along with Colyton and Lympstone.
But for ‘historic reasons’, the authority has never asked for payment in the trio of market towns, writes Local Democracy Reporter Daniel Clark.
East Devon District Council (EDDC) Car Parking Task and Finish Forum members were told ‘there is no logical reason’ for this to continue at their February meeting.
And councillors also agreed to introduce a nominal £1 fee to stop off at car parks in seven East Devon towns between 8pm and 6am.
Service lead for car parks Andrew Ennis told the committee that, that prior to the Covid-19 pandemic, more vehicles seemed to be using car parks on Sundays.
He added: “It would therefore be reasonable to suggest that charges should be imposed so that customers using our car parking facilities are then paying towards their maintenance and management.
“Members may take a view that there is no logical reason to continue with this no charges on Sundays policy in these towns and it might be reasonable to say that the time has come to charge in the same way we do in the coastal towns.”
Councillor Eleanor Rylance supported trialling the changes and said: “If we are only not charging for historic reasons, then trial it and see what works.
“We don’t know what the next few years will look like and we can revise it if it doesn’t work.”
Cllr Olly Davey added: “I don’t want to have anomalies and it is only fair we have a level field across the area.
“I appreciate there will be howls of outrage about this and they will say that it will spell the end of businesses in town centres, but I don’t see why people in one place have to pay and not in another.”
Cllr Andrew Moulding, who represents Axminster, said that he would not be favour of the move.
He added that it would be detrimental to people going to church or using pubs and restaurants for Sunday lunch.
But the committee voted by four to two, with two abstentions, in favour of the proposal to introduce Sunday charges in Ottery, Honiton and Axminster.
The forum also backed introducing an evening and overnight charge – initially at a flat rate of £1 – to contribute to the management, enforcement and wear and tear costs associated with the car parks.
This will apply to:
- Lace Walk short-stay car park in Honiton;
- West Street short-stay car park in Axminster;
- Orchard car park in Seaton;
- Central car park in Beer;
- Mill Street, Ham East and West and the Roxburgh car parks in Sidmouth;
- Rolle Mews car park in Budleigh Salterton;
- The London Inn, Imperial Road and Exmouth Pavilion car parks in Exmouth.
Mr Ennis said: “The nominal charge would cover the upkeep. £1 won’t be disproportionate to the benefits, but there is always the risk it is seen as a tax on businesses.”
Cllr Maddy Chapman called for decision to be deferred until the pandemic was over and said: “We will then see how many businesses have actually managed to survive and putting the car parks charges up won’t help.”
The forum voted by five to one, with one abstention, to trial the £1 evening and overnight charge.
Councillors voted against making any immediate decisions over the future of several ‘loss-making’ car parks in the district.
They called for the full details around costs for each of the 15 sites to be brought before a future meeting.