Residents of Cornwall have been reacting this week to Cornwall Council’s proposed increases to charges at council-owned car parks across the county. 

Cornwall Council has opened a consultation period for proposed new prices for users of council car parks. 

While many expected an increase in price to allow for upkeep and to remain in line with inflation, not many expected increases as high as this. One car park in Launceston, Fair Park Close, has seen an increase of 384.89% on annual permits, as charges rise from £118.79 annually, to £576. However, this is not the only place which is set to be affected, with more than 15 car parks named in the Post area within the council’s proposal and nearly 200 named across the county.

Drivers can expect to pay more to park at home or on their travels.  

Residents have hit out at the hikes, with a Launceston resident stating on social media: “Unbelievable charges! Will kill off our town. People will start parking anywhere they can to avoid these ridiculous charges. 

As inflation is so high, it was unlikely that Cornwall Council, along with other councils across the country, would be able to lower or even maintain the current cost of their services. However, very few would have expected to see an increase of this magnitude, so why is it that proposals for 2023 are so much higher than that which had been seen in 2022?

The details for the Off Street Parking Places Order 2023 explains: ‘Cornwall Council manages 133 chargeable car parks and a further 72 free car parks throughout Cornwall- the largest number of car parks spaces managed by a local authority in the UK. The revenue generated from the fees charges are invested back into maintaining the car parks, associated infrastructure and our highway and transportation network.”

When we approached Cornwall Council for a comment, we were pointed towards a recent release from the council, featuring a comment from Connor Donnithorne, Cornwall Council cabinet portfolio holder for transport, who said: “The impact of carbon emissions on our planet is clear and we all have a role to play in reducing our carbon footprint and considering how we make our journeys if we are to tackle climate change. So, we’ve already put initiatives in place to encourage different ways to travel.

“However, we realise that they won’t suit everyone so residents who have no choice other than to regularly use Cornwall Council car parks can benefit from vastly reduced ‘multi use’ tickets bought through the Just Park app.

“There are those that argue that parking should be free. The Council still has to maintain car parks and income from car park charges supports the Council’s wider transport service so without that income, we’d need to find other ways to generate that money. There is also the consideration that having unlimited free car parks is not always good for high streets as commuters or people working nearby may park there all day meaning there is no turnover of spaces and shoppers who are determined to travel by car can’t find a space.

“We appreciate that it’s a balancing act and we’re not going to please everyone.”

While it seems as though this hike has been decided in the hope of raising further funds and aiding the environment, residents are worried that this will not only affect their own finances but also the finances of the towns in which they live.

Throughout the document detailing the areas proposed to increase, there is a great number of coastal and tourism-centred car parks named, such as Wherrytown Car Park in Penzance, which will primarily affect those visiting our county on holiday. However, some car parks are proposed to increase their prices despite being in residential areas, such as the aforementioned Fair Park Close car park on Race Hill in Launceston and the Westbourne car park, in Liskeard, among many others. These proposals have left residents of the area worried about the future of their towns.

Some have taken to social media to express their concern, one user from Launceston said the hike would “kill our town”. “People will start parking anywhere they can to avoid these ridiculous charges and will be dangerous to all our children and pedestrians! Myself and my neighbours already have issues parking on our road from people that don’t live here. This will add to the problems tenfold.”

Another wrote: “On a previous occasion when a similar increase was introduced, the permit only spaces were deserted and the money paid to Cornwall Council plummeted. After a big effort by local councillors the annual rate for the Launceston Group of car parks was significantly reduced. The number of permit holders began to increase, but the uptake never returned to the original level. If the price increase goes ahead people will find less suitable places to park and cause inconvenience to other areas. Income for the Council will go down (presumably they expect an increase) and the streets will become even more congested. A no win situation for everyone.”

Residents across the county are fearful that these increases will encourage people to go elsewhere, either by parking dangerously or simply looking to move to another area where living and working doesn’t incur steep parking charges, thus driving business away from towns.

Local councillors have also been vocal about the issue, when asked for his thoughts on the matter, Cornwall Councillor for Bude, Peter La Broy said: “Cornwall Council have yet again demonstrated a complete lack of understanding of the needs of Bude. Trying to implement a ‘one size fits all’ charging regime is madness. Car parks are being treated as cash cows and the revised charging rates will force local users to park on our streets. It’s time the current regime woke up and realised that they have a duty to respect the people of Cornwall and not to simply fill financial holes by ripping off hard working residents.”

While Councillor for Launceston South, John Conway added: “The Cornwall proposals are basically one size fits all, and that does not fit everywhere. The proposal for the Cattle Market and Fair Park in particular are grossly excessive. I understand Councillors from all parties disagree with the proposal.”

With the Council’s consultation period now over, it remains to be seen whether these charges will be implemented and how it will affect our area. What do you think about these increases? Let us know at [email protected]