ROMSEY Town Centre chief hits back at the County Council over residential parking.

A new Hampshire scheme, which transport bosses gave the go ahead, is aimed at increasing the likelihood of residents being able to find a place to park near their home, and will see Romsey prices increase by 246 per cent.

The new increased charge will see Romsey residents who currently pay £15 for their permits, now billed £52.

Civic chiefs say the scheme is "costly to develop, implement, administer and enforce".

Romsey Town Centre manager Mark Edgerley said: "That's the proposal the County Council is telling, but Test Valley are fighting the corner to say it does not need to be that big. Test Valley are very efficient in the way they do their business. It potentially could put people off living in the town. It's a thing people see and decide to move elsewhere.

"It could cause people to avoid parking in streets with the permit and park out of those areas, which makes the whole thing difficult to manage. We mustn't make this more complicated than it needs to be."

Romsey, Cupernham ward councillor Mark Cooper said: "I think it's most unfortunate. It has been administered by the Borough Council at a cost effective £15 and then the County Council cost recovery is more expensive. It seems the County Council's idea of cost effective is different to that of the Borough Council's. I can see it going the way of all of us have to pay to park on the street everywhere. They will gradually extend their charges. It could have a huge impact on retail, which is already under big pressure."

Currently, locals are charged from between £15 and £40 per year for a permit – depending on where they live, with districts and borough councils administering the scheme on behalf of Hampshire County Council – which manages the majority of the area’s roads.

The authority says the increase will mean the service is operated “on a full cost recovery basis”, and not subsidised by the districts’ on-street parking accounts – which are partly made up of cash from fines and tickets.

It also says that residents who currently don’t have to pay for a permit, as they were living in zones before they were introduced, will now have to cough up.

Following the decision, made on October 29, Councillor Rob Humby, Hampshire’s transport chief, said: “We know from what Hampshire residents have told us that a well maintained highway network is a priority for them, and so we need to ensure that as much resource as possible goes into this.

“Making sure parking places are maintained with signs and lines, that appropriate traffic orders are put in place, and where waiting restrictions are imposed, that these are effectively managed – all come at a cost, and this is currently taking resource away from essential highways maintenance.

“The recommendations I’ve agreed mean that these costs can be recovered as changes are phased in.”

The county council says that the average annual charge is £64, with its new proposed fee below this.

The plans will come into force in April next year.