Drivers could be charged to park in Spelthorne after the council said it was spending too much cash maintaining free parking out of town.

A council spokesman said although members were set to consult on proposals to introduce charges in Orchard Meadow, Green Street and the Walled Garden, Sunbury, along with the Broadway, Laleham, and Shepperton Village Hall, the decision will not come back before councillors and will instead be decided by unelected officials.

A council report said drivers will not pay for the first hour of parking, so as not to discourage people from using shops and restaurants, but a small charge would be introduced after.

Speaking at Tuesday night’s meeting, Councillor Colin Davis, portfolio holder for regeneration, said: “Car parks cost this council a fortune. The council has to pay business rates to itself in effect, but then to the Government.

The costs make chilling reading.

“There is no such thing as free car parking, at best it is heavily subsidised parking.”

Officers claim car park maintenance costs the council £20,500 a year along with £11,900 in business rates.

Expected revenue from
introducing car park charges is predicted as £31,000, although installing pay and display machines will cost the council almost £20,000 and it is thought businesses in Shepperton may suffer with the introduction of charges.

Sunbury resident John Hirsh said: “The council do expect to make a certain amount of money by introducing charges, although if people know the first hour is free they just won’t stay longer and pay. Therefore, the amount they predict will be made is so susceptible to change.

“Also it comes down to the fact people don’t like to pay.”

A council spokesman said: “Each of the car parks have been reviewed and assessed as to use and the specific issues associated with them.

“For example, the volunteers at the Embroidery Gallery, who use the car park at the Walled Garden, will be provided with visitor permits.

“Similarly, parents who use the Broadway car park to drop off their children for school will benefit from the first free hour.

“Car parking charges for the main car parks in Staines, including Elmsleigh multi-storey and surface, Kingston Road, South Street and Riverside have been frozen for stays of up to three hours.

“This is intended to support town centre businesses during the current financial downturn.”

Source: Local Guardian