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South Somerset remains one of the cheapest places to park in the South West

| District

Parking charges in South Somerset will slightly increase in the coming weeks, but the cost to park in South Somerset District Council owned car parks still remain among the cheapest in the South West.

There will be a small additional charge on the tariff of car parking across South Somerset’s pay and display car parks. Additional revenue raised through car parking charges will help to provide better services for residents across the district.

Charges for parking have been frozen in South Somerset since 2012 and the additional price rise is less than the rise in inflation during the same time period.

Charges will also be implemented in Wincanton, following the decision by Wincanton Town Council to remove their payment to the District Council in order to provide free parking for the town.

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Councillor Val Keitch, Leader of South Somerset District Council, said: “It’s no secret that we have seen falling revenue in car parks due to them being under-used, but investing in our town centres in Yeovil, Chard and Wincanton will hopefully boost footfall due to the better experience for residents and visitors. This isn’t a way of making a quick few pounds because we use the income to provide services to our residents.”

Why raise the prices?

In 2018, SSDC’s District Executive Committee agreed to raise the cost of parking throughout South Somerset and this has been deferred as long as possible to lessen the impact to users of the car parks.

Councillor Peter Seib, Portfolio Holder for finance at South Somerset District Council, said: “We operate in a very difficult financial climate as a local authority, where annual general funding from Central Government has fallen £7.7m since 2010 to just £3.4m.

“Whilst we appreciate that car parking charge increases are always a contentious issue, we have kept the cost to a minimum to ensure best value for our residents and visitors. As a Committee, District Executive felt that an inflationary parking charge rise was justified to match cost increases and to help to fund CCTV, improved lighting, and environmental improvements.”

What does the cost of a parking charge pay for?

Part of the cost of a car parking charge goes into operating and maintaining car parks.

Operating car parks comes at a fairly high price, as this pays staff wages and for technologies such as phone and pay and also investing in emerging technologies across the district

Maintaining car parks covers bay marking and resurfacing which regularly takes place. Recently, Stars Lane and Petters Way car parks in Yeovil were partly resurfaced and car parking bays re-marked.

The rest of the cost of parking gets reinvested into other related projects such as the provision of new car parks e.g. Crewkerne to improve parking facilities and reduce demand for on street parking and therefore congestion.

Why are you now charging in Wincanton?

For many years, Wincanton Town Council has been providing the District Council with a payment that covers the cost of providing free parking in the town. The Town Council took the decision to remove this payment in 2016 so the funds could be spent on other projects and maintenance within the town.

The car parks at Carrington Way, Churchfields and the Memorial Hall will become chargeable to ensure their upkeep and maintenance.

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A similar arrangement still exists with Castle Cary Town Council where parking still remains free of charge.

Why can’t free parking be implemented in all towns across South Somerset to help increase footfall?

To implement free parking in SSDC car parks in all towns would come at an estimated cost of £2m per year. This is unaffordable unless it was accompanied by either a substantial increase in Council Tax or a cut in services.

Is the cost of a ticket in South Somerset really one of the cheapest in the South West?

Yes. Our car parking charges are one of the lowest in the South West compared to a lot of other towns or cities.

It’s difficult to price compare across the whole of the South West because different Council’s charge in different ways e.g. a set fee and then per hour whereas in South Somerset, we charge by the hour. But as an example, an hour parking in Taunton will cost you £1.60, whereas in Yeovil the most expensive hour of parking will be £1.30 in various car parks in the town.

Anyone who wants to make a comment about the proposals should do so no later than noon on 6 September.

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