A INCREASE in Winchester residents' parking charges dubbed a "poll tax on parking" is set to be introduced, while free parking would be ended in the district's market towns.

Under a new agreement, which is set to be made between Winchester City Council (WCC) and Hampshire County Council (HCC), the cost of resident's on-street permits could more than double from £22 a year to £50.

It would also see WCC ending free on-street parking in the city, and in market towns in the Winchester district, including Alresford, Bishop's Waltham and Wickham, where 'pay and display' will be introduced.

A report outlining the agreement acknowledged that the move is likely to be unpopular. It said: "The proposed increase in the cost of residents' first permits to £50 and the scrapping of free on-street parking, as well as introducing charges in market towns (pay and display), would be likely to raise objections amongst householders in permit zones, as well as the wider public and businesses as new charges could impact on visitor numbers.

"There is therefore scope for criticism of the city council in delivering these changes."

However, WCC leader and Lib Dem councillor Lucille Thompson said the council would be looking at ways of spreading the permit cost to after the £50 figure.

Cllr Thompson said: "We were going to keep the agency (agreement) because in our view if we hand it back to the county... it goes into the huge melee of Hampshire."

She said it was hoped the increase could be spread to reduce the first permit price rise, adding: "It is slightly more complicated that the report suggests."

The report states: "The revised agency agreement requires an increase in permit charges to £50 for first permits, which can be phased over three years. "This increase will address the deficit highlighted above and contribute to the county council’s operating costs.

"Also, a review of parking administration is currently being undertaken to ensure apportionment of costs to on-street and residents' parking is accurate in the future."

The report added there are currently around 3,000 people with first permits which will be affected by the price hike.

As previously reported, the council was asked to decide earlier this year whether it wanted to continue operating the parking service, which it currently does on behalf of HCC, or hand it back entirely.

The increase was proposed in a bid to run the service on 'full cost recovery basis', and not be subsidised by the district’s on-street parking accounts – which are partly made up of cash from fines and tickets.

Speaking in October when the move was first announced, Liberal Democrat city and county councillor Martin Tod said there are “better ways” of plugging council finances, dubbing it "a poll tax on parking”.

In March the then-Winchester City Council leader, Consecrative councillor Caroline Horrill, said she had struck a deal with the county to halt the rise, which was due to come into effect from April, while they discussed the now approved Winchester Movement Strategy.

Cllr Horrill said: "I am delighted to announce good sense prevails for the city’s residents.

“This rise in on-street permit parking charges was substantial and would have been bad for residents and business so I’m delighted.

“This is the right thing to do for Winchester and I will continue to look after residents’ interests at all times. I thank [county council leader Cllr] Roy Perry for listening to our concerns about their plan and agreeing to this way forward.”

Councillors Horrill and Tod have been approached for comment.