RESIDENTS in some areas of Crewe face the prospect of having to pay £250 just to park near their homes.
The measure is part of plans by Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council to scrap free parking on some of its car parks.
Reporter BEN JERVIS looks at the issues confronting residents.
WE ALL know what it is like. You have had a hard day at work, you get in the car and have managed to escape the worst of the rush-hour traffic.
Then, just when you think things can't get any worse, you get home and there is nowhere to park.
Many people living in the side streets off Nantwich Road have had to live with this scenario on a daily basis as they compete for parking space with shoppers or football supporters going to Gresty Road.
Now, to add insult to injury, they face the prospect of having to pay £250 a year for a parking permit. And those who apply for the permits will be chosen at random.
Under plans being considered by Crewe and Nantwich Borough Council, residents who use the free car parks near to their homes will see this privilege scrapped as the council looks to axe free parking on some of its car parks.
The permits will apply to former free car parks on Edward Street, Lord Street, South Street, Wood Street (West) and Union Street.
The council says the proposed charges - which are part of an overall rise in parking costs - will help free up more spaces for those who need them.
People wanting to park at Barnfields car park on Browning Street also face having to pay to park, although 18 permits will be offered to residents to allow them to park on the site.
Borough councillor Steve Hogben says more than 70 households on three of the streets in his Alexandra ward will be affected by the permit scheme.
He said: 'I am in favour of parking permits but this is only part of it. There are three streets, Edward Street, South Street and Wood Street (West), which interest me because they all have
car parks and will be affected by the scheme.
'I agree with the idea of parking permits but I don't agree with the fee being suggested, which is around £250.
'I have written to people in my ward about the scheme and have so far had about a dozen of the households respond.
'It is a new experiment in the borough and it needs to be made fair for everyone.
'South Street in particular has double yellow lines so people cannot park in front of their homes. Residents living there have no choice but to park on the car park.
'So if residents, and pensioners in particular, cannot afford to pay, they will be well and truly stuck.'
Motorists parking in the Edleston Road and Wood Street (East) car parks, which are currently free, will face charges of £1.20 for two to four hours and £2 after that when these sites become pay and display car parks under the plans.
The council agreed in principle to the changes last year and the plans are now out to public consultation. A decision will be taken at a council board meeting next Wednesday.
When the scheme was first discussed at a series of meetings last year, councillors abandoned the idea of auctioning off spaces in the free car parks to the highest bidder on the basis that it would be discriminatory.
Instead, they agreed to award spaces by pulling the names of people who apply out of a hat.
Council business development offer Paul Burns says it is trying to reach a compromise to keep both residents and shoppers happy.
He added: 'Having a pay and display gives up free parking and creates more spaces given the amount of pressure there's going to be once the redevelopment of the town starts.
'The changes to Barnfields car park on Browning Street are to free up spaces for more shop-pers.
'The other changes are to make sure residents have somewhere to park.
'People will be chosen on a random selection basis for residents' permits.'
Firefighter highlights double parking perils >>
Firefighter highlights double parking perils
PEOPLE may not think that parking on the road in a narrow street could be matter of life and death.
But the emergency services face an extra battle to get to somebody in time because of cars that have been illegally parked.
Red Watch manager Jay Hague, a leading firefighter at Crewe Fire Station, says a little bit of thought could go a long way to making their job a little easier.
He said: 'When people double park it causes problems. The side streets are overcrowded as it is. When people park and don't leave enough space it makes it really difficult to get down.
'It is actually illegal to park and not leave enough room to make sure an emergency vehicle can get past. It is also an offence to obstruct hydrants on the side of the road by parking in front of them.'
The 46-year-old officer, of Crewe, has had more than 20 years' experience as a firefighter.
He added: 'There have been a number of incidents in the past couple of years where we have been called out to side streets off Nantwich Road and surrounding areas and have faced problems.
'One incident springs to mind on Samuel Street in Crewe last year where we had to run 100 yards down the street with breathing apparatus on to a house which was on fire because we couldn't get the fire engine down.
'The fire engine did make it in the end but only after we had got people out of bed.
'We have a deadline to meet and we have to make sure we get there as quick as we can because people in that situation have only three minutes before they are totally overcome by smoke.'
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