Row rumbles on over decision to scrap free permits

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Cllr Rob Humby (left) with Matthew Riches (right) Skanksa's business director for Hampshire Highways

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FEARS have been raised that hundreds of drivers will refuse to pay parking permit charges and create more traffic problems.

Former council leader, Councillor Gerald Vernon-Jackson, believes at least 10 per cent of the 9,500 city motorists who have a free parking pass will give them up and park where it is free once fees come in.

He said the percentage is based on where charges have been imposed by other councils which used to operate a free scheme.

Portsmouth City Council wants to save £380,000 within its traffic and transport department by scrapping free permits to park in resident parking zones and making people pay £40 a year for one.

If they refuse to pay, then the parking scheme will be scrapped – prompting criticism the consultation is a form of ‘blackmail.’

Lib Dem Cllr Vernon-Jackson said: ‘Having that extra number of cars on the roads will cause mayhem in a place like Southsea. It’s a badly thought-out decision.

‘The first permit for resident parking schemes since 2002 were brought in on the understanding they were free.

‘The reason being given for the charge is the council needs money – but there were two schemes (the MB and MC zones) that made money and both of them have been scrapped by the administration.

He added: ‘If you live within resident parking zones around places like Elm Grove and the seafront, parking is difficult enough as it is.’

But Cllr Luke Stubbs, deputy Tory leader of the council, said savings had to be found from somewhere and ‘every effort’ will be made to keep the permit charge down.

‘Every other council in southern England that has resident parking schemes charges for first permits, with the exception of Reading,’ he said. ‘It’s easy to say that Portsmouth should not levy a charge, but otherwise we would have to find the money from somewhere else.

‘We have had a 10 per cent cut in our budget this year and we are looking at a similar amount over the next three years.’

A petition against changes in the permit system has attracted more than 600 signatures.

The decision to approve a charging scheme will also be reviewed by the council’s scrutiny management panel on Friday, February 6 at the request of Lib Dem members.