COUNCILLORS were accused today of ignoring the wishes of residents, as they pushed through controversial Sunday parking charges in Harrogate, following a year of fierce debate.
Drivers will face charges from this autumn, after North Yorkshire County Council today gave the go-ahead for the on-street pay and display parking charges between 10am and 6pm.
A second proposal to introduce evening charges on weekdays has been shelved for the time being, but residents were warned they may face another battle to see them off in the future.
A huge public backlash followed the council’s announcement in May last year that it wanted to bring in Sunday charges.
Today, businessman Mike Pywell, who organised a petition against the charges, attacked councillors for “not listening” to the public mood.
He said: “We have been completely ignored. No consideration at all has been given to a creative solution and they are so removed from the concerns and the points made by Harrogate residents.”
Ukip councillor David Simister, who opposed the proposals, branded the charged a “tax on motorists”, but added the decision came as “no surprise whatsoever”.
He said: “The county council has always wanted to introduce Sunday parking charges and it’s all about revenue generation.
“By doing a consultation they just gone through the motions. I don’t believe they had any intention to do anything other than introduce Sunday parking charges.
“Visitors and residents are being punished for coming to Harrogate. The high street is under massive competition and this Coun Simister warned that Harrogate would soon face another fight over evening parking charges.
The council said Sunday charges were necessary because cars were being parked in street bays for longer than the weekday limit, and that off-street car parks had capacity to accommodate more vehicles throughout the day.
The council said in a statement: “The evidence supports the need to encourage those wanting to park for longer to use off-street car parks, which reduces congestion, and to encourage a turnover of premium on-street parking spaces to ensure these spaces are available for short stay shoppers and visitors.”
County Coun Don Mackenzie, North Yorkshire’s executive member for highways, said: “In the time since we published our original proposals, more than a year ago, we made every effort to engage people and listen to what they had to say.
“In response to the points raised, we gathered further evidence, which I believe provides a sound justification for the decision on Sunday charging.”
He added: “I realise some people believe these charges will have a detrimental impact on Harrogate, but I am not aware of any conclusive evidence that reasonable parking charges have a negative impact on town centre economies.
“I believe introducing charges and encouraging more rapid turnover or premium parking spaces on-street on Sundays will be good for businesses, because at the moment on Sundays those streets are fully parked up, people have no incentive to move on and many people are simply parking for convenience and are not going into shops, restaurants or pubs to support our economy.”
Harrogate, whose town centre was for many years a free ‘Disc’ zone, has already seen the introduction of new on-street ticket machines which accept cash and cards.