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Chester and Ellesmere Port Free after 3 parking set for the chop

Recommendations will go before council cabinet next week

Chester Market Car Park

Axing the popular ‘Free after 3’ parking scheme plus introducing ‘modest’ parking charges in Frodsham, Hoole, Northwich and Winsford are among recommendations expected to be approved next Wednesday (July 12).

Cabinet members at Cheshire West and Chester Council are asked to approve the 15-year plan aimed at delivering sufficient ‘fit for purpose’ parking facilities to support residents and businesses, reduce congestion and improve air quality.

Former city centre manager Stephen Wundke, one of the pioneers behind the ‘Free after 3’ concept, has already put on record his fear that city centre shops will suffer if it gets scrapped by the cash-strapped Labour authority.

Stephen Wundke

“This is about revenue raising and nothing else,” he previously told The Chronicle.

CWaC is talking about replacing ‘Free after 3’ in Chester and Ellesmere Port with alternative parking offers such as seasonal offers at quiet times of the year, Park & Ride special offers and other discounts.

The aim is to encourage trade throughout the day and reduce the congestion and air pollution associated with the evening rush-hour.

Free After Three parking at Chester Market car park

Other controversial proposals backed following a 12-week public consultation include:

■ Start charging at free council car parks in Hoole, Frodsham, Northwich and Winsford so they are available for customers

■ Consider introducing charges at Helsby, Little Sutton and Tarporley

■ Introduce on-street parking charges in Chester only

The draft strategy, produced by specialist transport consultants Mott MacDonald, had recommended charging disabled Blue Badge holders for parking.

However, the officer report before cabinet rejects this proposal in recognition disabled people have little choice where they park. To charge would be inconsistent with council policies aimed at supporting older people and vulnerable adults.

Cheshire West and Chester Council (CWaC) HQ Building in Chester(Image: Ian Cooper)

Other proposals include:

■ Improving the quality of the council’s car parks

■ Updating car park technology to provide modern and easy payment methods such as contactless

■ Addressing parking pressures by looking to build more car parks or explore potential for multi-storey car parks at Frodsham, Helsby, Neston and Parkgate, Sandiway, Tarporley, Tarvin and Weaverham and some railway stations

■ Improving the size, quality and number of disabled spaces across the borough

The report recommends an overarching, borough-wide strategy and eight action plans for Chester, Ellesmere Port, Northwich, Winsford, Frodsham, Helsby and Neston (including Parkgate) and rural areas.

There will be a parking action plan for areas including Frodsham(Image: Ian Cooper)

While recognising there are also some common issues that affect them, Cuddington and Sandiway, Farndon, Tarvin, Tattenhall, Malpas, Tarporley and Kelsall will also be looked at on an individual basis.

The preparation of action plans would be delegated to Maria Byrne, director of place operations, with the Traffic Regulation Order process viewed as the appropriate mechanism to consult with residents and businesses on the implementation of the detail.

Cllr Karen Shore (Lab)

Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment, said: “Our population and car ownership rates are steadily rising and land available for car parking is decreasing.

“Over the coming years, the council needs to find ways to invest in our car parks so we have sufficient clean and safe spaces, in the right places, with clear signage and new technology to make visits easier and more flexible.

“We need to address the issues faced by residents who live in areas where commuters regularly park, introduce the right offers in the right places to encourage visitors, improve disabled provision, and reduce congestion and air pollution.

“Nobody likes paying for things that were previously free, we understand that, but the fairest way to generate the income needed to make this level of investment, and contribute towards the savings the council must make, is for everyone to contribute rather than the postcode lottery system currently in place.

“There is an imbalance at the moment, as residents and businesses in some areas are paying for parking and others are not and in many areas where charges are not in place there are significant parking pressures and that is not fair.”

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