Upset over proposed car park charge hikes in Leighton Buzzard

Duncombe Drive car parkDuncombe Drive car park
Duncombe Drive car park
"We cannot have CBC looking at our car parks as a cash cow."

A Leighton Buzzard councillor and a businessman in the town have criticised Central Bedfordshire Council (CBC) proposals to increase charges at council-owned car parks in the town.

The possibility of hiking prices in council-owned car parks was discussed during a Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting last week. During the meeting, councillor John Gurney called the proposed charge rise of six per cent “punitive”.

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A Central Bedfordshire Council spokesperson said: “At a recent Corporate Resources Overview and Scrutiny Committee meeting, our Annual Fees and Charges Report was discussed. The report suggested an increase across a range of services including car parking fees.“If agreed by Members, the proposal would see an increase in parking fees to the rate of inflation (6.1 per cent), which would see an hour parking increase from £1.50 to £1.60 across all our car parks. Parking fees and charges were not increased last year.”

The plans, which will be decided on by the executive committee on October 10, were not received well by business people and council members in Leighton Buzzard. Gennaro Borrelli, owner of Gennaro Organic Hair and Beauty and chairman of LB First, said: “To hear that there is the possibility of parking charges increasing, it's a hammer blow at this point in time.”

There have been questions about the fairness of the proposed hikes given that CBC only owns car parks in Leighton Buzzard, Flitwick and Dunstable. According to the council website, Leighton Buzzard is home to five of the council’s 14 car parks. Currently, the car parks charge £1.50 for up to one hour of parking.

Mr Borrelli explained: “It's not a level playing field for the businesses across Central Bedfordshire. How can it be right that if you've got a business in this part of Central Beds, our customers are being unfairly penalised?”

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Independent councillor for Leighton Linslade West Ward, Victoria Harvey, said: “For many years, I've been begging for half an hour or an hour of free car parking. It would really help the town because we're competing against out-of-town retail parks, where there's free parking.

“Leighton Buzzard town centre car parks will be charging £1.60 an hour when residents can escape the congestion and park for free in the Grovebury Road, MK One and Bletchley retail parks.

“At this time of economic crisis, we need to support our high street and make it possible for people to park for free and nip into our local shops and support them.”

Mr Borrelli added: "We cannot have CBC looking at our car parks as a cash cow."