FREE resident parking permits are being abolished for good after it was revealed drivers must pay up or hand them back.
Portsmouth City Council has decided it is only going to keep parking zones in areas where drivers are willing to pay charges.
The authority has agreed to ask residents through a public survey whether they would pay £40 a year for their first permit if it meant being able to park on or near their road – but is refusing to ask if drivers would prefer permits to remain free.
Charges for extra permits would rise.
And campaigners furious with the council’s stance have labelled the public consultation a form of ‘blackmail’ which is not democratic and unfair on struggling families.
But Portsmouth’s Tory traffic boss, Councillor Ken Ellcome, insisted he is not forcing anyone to keep their permits and says a £40 yearly charge is not unreasonable – as the council seeks to claw back £380,000 savings in the traffic department.
Cllr Gerald Vernon-Jackson, Lib Dem group leader, said: ‘It’s blackmail, that’s a very poor way of consulting because you are just doing it in a way to drive the answer your way. I am extremely worried by that.’
Addressing Cllr Ellcome, Barbara Jones, of Grenville Road, Southsea, said: ‘To hike the cost from zero to £40 is unreasonable.
‘From your own (budget) survey, this first permit charge is not supported by the majority – only 46 per cent of the general public and 41 per cent of those living in resident parking zones. Why then, are you proceeding with this undemocratic plan?’
Seafront traders’ permits could also rocket from £210 to £1,170 over the next three years.
Billy Edwards, chief executive of Southsea Island Leisure, which operates the seafront arcade and the mini-golf park next to The Big Wheel Cafe, said he holds five passes for staff and would have to absorb the costs.
‘Whether it’s an 82 per cent increase on 1p or £100m, it’s a big increase,’ he said.
‘It’s detrimental when we are trying to attract businesses to the seafront.
Jill Norman, director of Clarence Pier, said: ‘The potential increase in the first year is 82 per cent, which is way above the current rate of inflation.’
‘If this is introduced, it would make it unviable for people working on the seafront to go there.’
Cllr Vernon-Jackson added the demands would ‘bankrupt’ businesses.
Cllr Ellcome said: ‘It’s up to residents whether they want their permit or not.
‘No-one is forcing people if they don’t want it. If you break it down, a £40 charge works out at 73p a week. You couldn’t get half a pint of beer for that.
The results of the consultation will be revealed in March, before a separate parking review is carried out determining whether some zones should switch to part-time restrictions.