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Budget freeze heralds demise of free car-parking for Dales residents

[Tuesday 14 February 2006]

Free car parking for people living in the Yorkshire Dales National Park is to come to an end from April.

Instead, residents will be charged £30 a year to park in any of the National Park's 11 car parks, with the extra income to be ploughed back into the services provided by the National Park Authority.

In a blow for the 20,000 people that live and work in the Yorkshire Dales, members of the Authority's Finance and Resources Committee voted yesterday (Monday) to bring the concession to an end.

The Committee did though agree to issue free permits in exceptional circumstances on a case-by-case basis where a resident had no alternative on-street or off-street parking and could only use a National Park car park.

Currently, businesses and visitors are charged £75 for an annual permit but residents pay nothing, a system described by Committee member Andrew Osborne as 'unfair'.

"It should be more in proportion to what everyone else is expected to pay", he said.

The vote comes in the light of a recent Defra decision to freeze the National Park's grant from central Government over the next three years.

Committee Chairman Ann Brooks said: "It is a decision that was made with regret but, with the financial circumstances being as they are, we have to look at ways of generating income".

Adding: "We have been asked by the auditors to re-examine our sources of revenue in the light of the fact our grant settlements are expected to be frozen for the next three years and we hope residents will appreciate the reasons for us taking this decision".

Authority Chairman, Carl Lis, was less subtle, saying: "The days of the National Park having the luxury of being able to afford to provide free permits for residents is over.

Adding: "I believe we need to bite the bullet and say sorry, but our funding issues are so significant that we have to adopt this policy".

Free permits were first introduced in 1985 and their demise does bring the National Park more in to line with other local authorities.

Committee members heard that Craven District Council currently charges £20 a year for three hours a day and £100 for all day all year.

The North Yorkshire Moors National Park charges £25 a year but residents are restricted to one, nominated car park, while people living in the Lake District National Park pay £300 for any car at one car park.

Richmondshire District Council has a £40 pass available to residents and non-residents which allows all-day parking at all 10 of its car parks.

Jon Avison, the Authority's Head of Park Management, said: "Obviously, in the 21 years since the introduction, demands for and costs of providing services to National Park residents and visitors have increased and finances are suffering from tighter restraints.

"When you consider that the cost of an annual parking permit for businesses and visitors to the National Park is £75, and visitors without permits pay about £3 a day for parking, residents will be getting extremely good value for money -especially as the permits are valid in any YDNPA car park.

"The Government is exhorting us to generate as much income as we can out of our assets and free parking for a selected group only is unfair in today's society.

"It costs a significant amount to run the facilities and this charge of £30 will generate income that will provide more money to be spent on looking after the area and attracting visitors - who will boost the local economy".

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