Dismay as Kettering's parking charges set to be reinstated
Parking has been free since March last year
Councillors and residents have voiced their dismay after it was revealed charges to use council-owned car parks in Kettering would be reinstated from Monday (August 9).
Parking in a number of town centre car parks has been free since March last year, in a move which was first made to help key workers in the pandemic and then extended to boost the return to town centres as Covid-19 restrictions eased.
But with almost all restrictions now lifted - and with parking capacity in London Road reduced because of building works - North Northamptonshire Council (NNC) has decided car parking charges will come into force again from Monday.
The decision to charge again - with Kettering's car parking charges by far the highest in north Northamptonshire - came just days after the council had agreed to consider free parking for all town centres in the north of the county.
And the decision has been met with a backlash from opposition parties and town residents.
A Kettering Town Council Labour group spokesman said they were 'dismayed' that charges were being reintroduced just two months after the town council unanimously agreed to urge NNC not to reinstate them until a full review of charges had been carried out.
The spokesman said: "Parking is free in Wellingborough and Rushden and council-owned car parks in Corby charge 60p for two hours' parking.
"Why should our residents and business prop up the other town centres with parking charges that are higher?
"Our town centre has faced an incredibly difficult period and this will feel like a slap in the face to the business owners who desperately need shoppers to come back to the town centre.
"Kettering Town Council Labour group would request that the unitary council rethink this policy as a matter of urgency."
Northants Telegraph readers also voiced their concerns about the decision.
Louise Southcombe said: "Well that will finish off the town once and for all...the councillors can’t see past the end of their noses."
Yvette Morgan said: "This will put people off from visiting the town centre. Not enough shops, reduced car parking spaces. People will drive to Rushden Lakes, Wellingborough, Corby, Market Harborough, where car parking is either free or cheaper than Kettering."
And Robert Austin said: "Monday to Frid (sic) should be free with a 2 hr limit...anything over that time you pay."
NNC's Cllr Graham Lawman, executive member for highways, travel and assets, said: “With the health situation starting to normalise and restrictions easing, we’re seeing more traffic returning to our roads and so we will be reintroducing charges at the March 2020 rates in all of the town’s public car parks.
“As we encourage people back into the town to work and socialise, we need to manage demand for spaces and to ensure a steady throughput of traffic with all motorists, particularly shoppers and town centre visitors, getting fair access to parking spaces, especially at a time when London Road car park has reduced capacity.
“We appreciate parking fees will never be popular, but we hope people understand that the fees are entirely reinvested into the upkeep of the car parks ensuring they are safe and accessible."