OVERNIGHT city centre parking charges would be reversed under a Conservative council, a meeting heard.

Senior Tory councillor Stephen Godfrey pledged to scrap the controversial increase after a petition was presented to the council calling for the overnight charges to be dropped.

He said: “The reasons given for these (charges) are to decongest the city centre during the evenings, reduce emissions and improve air quality. These are so much flannel. It was to generate more income. The impact on residents is significant. People don't like to come out now. 

“We will reverse the overnight parking charges if we form the administration of the council in the future.”

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Hampshire Chronicle:

The petition gained 501 signatures and was started by Denis Gibson, membership secretary of Winchester Community Choir, based at the United Church in Jewry Street.

Parking on a Sunday for more than four hours increased from £2.10 to £17. This is an increase of £14.90 or 709.5 per cent. 

The previously free overnight period from 7pm to 8am costs £3.30 for more than one hour. A new tariff of £1.80 for one hour and a volunteer permit was recently agreed.

The petition says: “We the undersigned petition the council to reverse its decision to abolish free parking between 7pm and 8am in Winchester city centre car parks.

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Hampshire Chronicle: Winchester Community Choir

“At the beginning of July, Winchester City Council introduced a fixed charge of £3.30 for any period of parking that starts between 7pm and 8am. You can reduce this cost to £1.80 if you buy an hour’s worth of parking that runs out after 7pm – you don’t have to pay any more for overnight. Over a year, even the lower charge adds enormously to the costs incurred by people who travel into town for work in the night-time economy and those who participate in community, cultural and religious activities at city-centre venues during the evening. 

“For example, a full-time restaurant worker whose shift ends after the last bus home will pay an extra £9 per week (at the very least) to bring a car to a central car park. And members of a choir that meets weekly during term time in a city-centre venue will have to find an extra £60pa to attend rehearsals and performances. These charges are punitive, will damage the local economy and will discourage participation in community and cultural activities in the city.”

Cllr Kelsie Learney, cabinet member for climate emergency, said: “We continue to monitor the impact and continue to engage. The Winchester BID footfall data shows no difference since the overnight charges were introduced. 

“This has been controversial but the council shouldn't lose sight of its overall goals.”

Cllr Jane Rutter, who is a member of the Waynflete Singers, which practices in the city centre, said: “There is plenty of free parking not too far away. It's about two minutes further to park at the Cattle Market than at Tower Street. I have got used to the new way of parking.”

The charges apply to Colebrook Street, Cossack Lane, Middle Brook Street, Gladstone Street, Friarsgate, Jewry Street, St Peter’s, Tower Street and Guildhall Yard.