The 37 car parks in South Gloucestershire where free parking could be scrapped

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The district has long enjoyed free parking at its council-owned car parks

Free parking could soon be scrapped in South Gloucestershire – with a total of 37car parks potentially impacted.

The council area is one of the few areas in the country where motorists can park for free. However, this could be about to change with Labour councillors - one-half of the new adminsitration with the Lib Dems - accepting that the prospect of bringing in parking charges was discussed at a recent group meeting of its members.

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The coalition has blamed the Tories for having the discussion, claiming that it was held after they discovered a line in the annual budget last February, when the Tories ran the local authority, promised £5million of extra money for council coffers but kept it a secret that this would be from new parking fees.

The Lib Dems and Labour say they would have opposed it had they known and that they are now left to implement the charges that have been effectively introduced by the Conservatives, unless they can somehow find the money from other services.

Specific car parks which would be impacted have not been disclosed. The council manages 38 car parks, some are Park and Ride car parks, others have short and long stay areas. Here’s the list of council-owned car parks which could be impacted by area: Bitton Railway Station; Conham River Park; Lyde Green Park and Ride; Abbey Wood; Church View, Filton; Station Road, Filton; Abbots Road, Hanham; Castle Farm Road, Hanham; Gover Road, Hanham; Laburnum Road, Hanham; Bank Road, Kingswood; Boultons Road, Kingswood; Cecil Road, Kingswood; Kingwood Civic Centre; South Road, Kingswood; Station Road, Kingswood; Long Beach Road, Longwell Green; St James, Mangotsfield; Consiton Road, Patchway; The Parade, Patchway; Bryon Place, Staple Hill; Haynes Lane, Staple Hill; Page Road, Staple Hill; Swineford Picnic Site; Castle Court, Thornbury; Park Road, Thornbury; Rock Street, Thornbury; St Mary Street, Thornbury; Thornbury Leisure Centre; Warmley Station; Flaxpits Lane, Winterbourne; Abbotswood, Yate; Cranleigh Court Road, Yate; Kennedy Way, Yate; Longs Drive, Yate; Park and Ride Badminton Road, Yate; Yate Leisure Centre.

The issue has come about after the coalition said it was only after the new leaders took office following May’s local elections that they were told by officers that a vague-looking “review of income generating opportunities” line in the budget that would reap £1million in 2024/25 and £2million over each of the next two years was a review of whether to introduce parking charges.

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The Tories, however, insist retaining free parking was a key pledge not only in their manifesto but that of the other two parties and they fear Labour and the Lib Dems are now ditching their promise to voters.

Rock Street car park in Thornbury could soon no longer be free to useRock Street car park in Thornbury could soon no longer be free to use
Rock Street car park in Thornbury could soon no longer be free to use | Google Earth

Tory group leader Cllr Sam Bromiley (Parkwall & Warmley) told the Local Democracy Reporting Service: “It’s extremely troubling to learn that the coalition, and the Labour group in particular, may be thinking about introducing car parking charges in South Gloucestershire. This would completely contradict both parties’ manifesto pledges and would have severe consequences for our high streets and local businesses.

“While the council is not immune to the challenges that all local authorities across the country are facing, there is no financial need whatsoever to start charging people to park their cars in South Gloucestershire. If this decision is made, it will be a political decision in order to fulfil a political objective.

“South Gloucestershire is one of the few places in the country where you can park your car for free at all times, and I’m proud that this has been one of the Conservative group’s long-standing achievements. If it’s scrapped by the coalition, residents and local businesses will have every right to feel cheated and let down.”

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In response, Labour and the Lib Dems said: “The Conservatives are not telling the whole truth. When they were in power, before we took office, they put a ‘review of income generating opportunities’ into their budget. There was no mention of parking charges in this budget line.

“It is only after the Conservatives lost power and we took office in partnership that we were told by council officers that this ‘review’ the Conservatives put in the budget was whether to introduce parking charges. The Conservatives withheld this information at the time we voted on the budget. If we’d known, we would’ve strongly opposed it.

“The Conservatives have effectively introduced parking charges in South Gloucestershire, leaving the current administration to implement it. It had never been our idea or intention. It’s theirs. Therefore, it’s a bit surprising that Sam Bromiley is raising this, given that he was a member of the Conservative cabinet at the time they formed the budget. He will have been fully aware that this ‘review’ was about introducing parking charges.”

Labour and the Lib Dems said they both made an “express manifesto promise” to keep parking free.

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The two parties said: “But we need to be clear with the public – these millions of pounds of income have already been written into the budget by the previous administration and, if they are not found through introducing parking charges, they will need to be found somewhere else.”

Labour confirmed that the issue was discussed at a recent group meeting because “members needed to be made aware of what we had uncovered in the budget”. The coalition added: “They needed to know that the budget deficit is potentially larger than originally thought.We are working extremely hard with officers to find other methods of income generation that do not involve any parking charges whatsoever.

“If we can find this income without introducing parking charges, we absolutely will. However, all options must remain open. But let it be known this was a Conservative idea.”

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