Playing fields charges could be massive own goal for council

COMMENT: Attraction will capitalise on the riches in our midst

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Parking has long been a practical issue here in Portsmouth.

Once it was all about the problem of fitting more and more vehicles into a densely-populated island full of narrow terraced streets.

But then came the controversy over charging people for the privilege of a parking space in the city.

Gradually, more and more streets had pay-and-display meters installed and people using car parks that had always been free found charges introduced.

Though many still don’t like it, this follows what has happened in other towns and cities up and down the country.

For cash-strapped councils, parking is a good revenue-generator as drivers often have no choice but to pay the required rate.

Yet today’s front page story revealing that charges could soon be introduced at two big playing fields in the city is surely a step too far.

Potentially a massive own goal for the council, you could say.

Think about it. Portsmouth is a city with big health problems, where there are high levels of obesity.

How exactly is expecting people to pay to park at Farlington Playing Fields and King George V Playing Fields in Cosham going to encourage families to pursue a healthy lifestyle by getting out of the house to play sports?

And as sports writer Jordan Cross says in his column on page 44, those involved in parks football are right to call foul.

They’re already paying for what they say are poor facilities – dressing rooms and pitches – and now they and their opponents face having to fork out just to park for a match.

This is on top of having to meet the costs of kit, training and match subs at a time when many people are struggling to make ends meet.

Cosham councillor Aiden Gray says rightly: ‘People should not be charged for wanting to go outside and be healthy and have fun.’

The charges will be discussed at a cabinet meeting on September 26. We urge councillors to think very carefully about the consequences before making their decision.