Car parking fees are set to double to £2-an-hour at 21 council sites across East Devon – and rise by 50 per cent at another six.
East Devon District Council’s (EDDC) cabinet has voted to the increases at sites in Exmouth, Sidmouth, Honiton, Seaton, Budleigh Salterton, Beer and Lympstone.
The matter will now go to full council for final decision. If the budget is approved, the increases will come into effect at the start of the next financial year, beginning in April.
Car parks where the hourly rate will double from £1 – £2 in April 2022
- Central long-stay
- Fore Street short-stay
- Cliff-top long-stay
- Lime Kiln long-stay
- Rolle Mews short-stay
- Imperial Road short-stay
- Queen’s Drive short-stay
- Foxholes long-stay
- Queen’s Drive Echelon long-stay
- Imperial Road Recreation Ground long-stay
- Camperdown Terrace long-stay
- Beach Gardens short-stay
- Underhill long-stay
- Jurassic long-stay
- The Underfleet West long-stay
- Ham West short-stay
- Ham East short-stay
- Manor Road long-stay
- Roxburgh short-stay
- Mill Street short-stay
- Manor Pavilion short-stay
Car parks where the hourly rate will rise by 50 per cent from £1 – £1.50
- London Hotel short-stay
- Lace Walk short-stay
- King Street short-stay
- New Street South long-stay
- New Street North long-stay
- Orchard Road short-stay
The parking charge increases will raise £1.1million for council use maintaining public spaces and loos, hiring staff, on EDDC’s tree policy and its recycling and refuse services.
To reduce the impact on local residents, councillors agreed to create £10 per month parking permits for residents who pay council tax. Annual permits will go up to £120 per year from April.
Prices will be capped at £8 for a day’s parking for non-residents, or those without a permit.
EDDC said the increases were the first of their kind in the district for almost 12 years.
Councillors say inflation and the introduction of VAT on car parking charges have eaten into income generated from parking.
Cabinet members believe the £1.1 million generated from the increase is necessary to balance the council’s budget and provide urgently needed funding elsewhere
Speaking at cabinet, Councillor Paul Millar (Labour, Democratic Alliance Group, Exmouth Halsdon) said he was originally against the rise but decided it was justified and would take parking prices in prime locations to levels seen in many other parts of Devon.
Cllr Millar said: “We’re faced with a very difficult decision but one I think we have to take. It’s a decision about whether this council wants to be an austerity council or whether it wants to be a council that invests in its services for its residents. If Exeter, Teignbridge and Mid Devon are doing that by increasing their charges then why aren’t we?”
The move allows cabinet to restructure the council’s revenue budget, putting an extra £737,000 into staffing.
This includes money for Streetscene, which cleans and maintains public spaces in East Devon including parks, public gardens and council-owned toilets.
The service, which has been without investment in staffing for 10 years, is struggling to keep up – with demand for seafront cleaning rising by almost 30 per cent last year alone.
Additional funds will also go into hiring more staff for development management which is struggling to stay on top of record numbers of planning requests.
Under the plans, two new members of staff will be hired at Manor Pavilion, Sidmouth.
The revenue boost also allows the council to put £50,000 into its tree strategy, without eating into its climate change budget.
A further £159,000 will go into funding the council’s recycling and refuse services.
The council’s chief executive, Mark Williams, said: “There’s no logic why we should be so behind the curve in terms of the way we approach our charging policy for car parks compared to our neighbours.”
He said that with the increase ‘the council will be on a much better footing to achieve what it wants to achieve’.
Councillor Sarah Jackson (Independent East Devon Alliance, Democratic Alliance Group, Axminster) said: “It’s never going to be popular putting up any parking fees but we have to recognise that the increases in tourism to our areas is putting our services under a lot more pressure just to maintain the existing services that we have because there’s a lot higher footfall.”
Councillor Steve Gazzard (Liberal Democrats, Democratic Alliance Group, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh) spoke out against the increase. He said the rising cost of living might put some people off from holidaying in East Devon, adding: “I think to put it up from £1.50 to £2 is too steep for this moment in time.”
Councillor Geoff Jung (Independent East Devon Alliance, Democratic Alliance Group, Woodbury and Lympstone) disagreed, saying: “I don’t see why just because everyone else has put their prices up, from the gas suppliers to the candle-stick maker, we can’t put our prices up.”
Councillor Maddie Chapman (Conservative, Exmouth Brixington) wanted to see prices raised equally across all car parks instead of the steep rise in the most expensive ones.
She said the policy ‘seems grossly unfair’ and did not want parts of the district ‘to feel penalised because they’ve got a beach’.
Councillor Jack Rowland (Seaton, Independent East Devon Alliance, Democratic Alliance Group), portfolio holder for finance, said different pricing in different parts of the district was needed and that it would be ‘totally unfair’ to raise tariffs equally across the district given massive differences in supply and demand.
Cllr Paul Hayward said: “We’re here to do the right thing – not to be populists.” He said that the move could encourage people to leave the car at home.