A DECISION to increase the cost of parking fees and permits, as well as altering free Christmas parking in Neath Port Talbot has been approved by the local council this week.
The decision, which had previously undergone “robust scrutiny” at a meeting last month, was initially deferred for proposed changes to parking fees across the county borough, in order to raise additional funds towards the council’s budget.
However, the plans were later passed this week, despite members of the Environment, Regeneration & Streetscene Services scrutiny committee voting not to support them to cabinet.
In the meeting, members heard how there was currently a cost deficit for the council in maintaining its parking services, which meant difficult decisions would have to be made in order to produce a balanced budget.
It means under the plans, permits which currently cost £20 per year could be increased to £25 to remain cost neutral or even to £30 to “future-proof admin costs and contribute to the council’s budget pressures.”
It also means charges to off-street parking in council-run car parks could now go up by as much as 15%, along with the introduction of a charging regime along the Aberavon Seafront.
Other changes will see an increase in the cost of seasonal permits, amendments to the dates of free Christmas parking in town centres, and bringing car parking charges in Pontardawe back in line with other Neath and Port Talbot town centres – though some councillors felt the move could have adverse effects.
Speaking at the meeting, Labour member Sharon Freeguard of Port Talbot said the increased costs could result in less people visiting the borough’s town centres in future.
She said: “As local ward councillors we are very disappointed with the parking review itself, and its recommendation. The council, Viva Port Talbot and other partners have worked very hard to promote the town with the aim to increase the footfall and provide much needed income.
“We feel that this report actually goes against the good work carried out to date, and undermines the effort of increasing footfall. We understand that there are budget pressures but this proposal does not justify the wider implications on the local economy across the whole of Port Talbot, and that includes the beach area as well. We are obviously against any increase in charges.”
As part of a statement read at the meeting, Richard Jones who is the chair of Viva Port Talbot, the Business Improvement District for Port Talbot said he also opposed the increase in parking tariffs.
He added: “Council members need to develop an affordable parking proposal which aims to support the remaining traders within the towns and hopefully encourage new investment as well.”