Sidmouth ‘shoppers’ car park’ excluded from £2 hourly fee

Plans for a £2-per-hour charge at all Sidmouth’s district council-run car parks are being amended to provide one cheaper parking area for short-stay shoppers. 

Philippa Davies 

It is now proposed that from April 1, fees at the Roxburgh car park will be 75p for 30 minutes and £1.50 per hour, with a maximum stay of two hours. The planned increase will still come into effect at Sidmouth’s other car parks. 

The recommendation will go before an extraordinary consultative meeting of East Devon District Council on Tuesday, March 22. 

The decision to increase parking charges across the district has been criticised widely, with a petition by Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce calling for the rise to be limited to £1.20 per hour. The Conservative group on the district council voted against the budget plan last month because it included the rise in parking fees. 

But leader, Cllr Paul Arnott, said the change of plan was not a U-turn. 

He said: “The last few months of finessing car park charges across East Devon has been intensely hard work. For more than a decade previous administrations ducked this issue, and when they then became the opposition with a duty to complete a charging review, they simply did not finish the work. Therefore, we needed to pick up the baton, and quickly, last December. 

“Cabinet had always intended to ensure that there was a shoppers’ car park in Sidmouth at an hourly rate of £1.50 rather than £2, but in the short time we had before budget setting last month, the detail was still being sense-checked. It had always been our intention for the Roxburgh to be designated at the lower rate and we had open discussions about how we could do this. 

“For the record, this decision, which will need to be agreed at full council, has nothing at all to do with local protests or petitions as we already had it in mind. However, due process meant that we could not announce it before now until after the agenda was published. I have repeatedly said in public and in this newspaper that we have had Sidmouth traders and shoppers uppermost in our thinking, and we are pleased to be able to deliver on that. 

“Finally, I once again commend to local people the extraordinarily good value of our monthly and yearly parking permits, where it is possible to park for under £2.40 a week, as well as our £8 all day charges, and our £2 all day rates between November and March.” 

The chairman of Sidmouth Town Council, Ian Barlow, said: “We criticised (the price rise) because it was going up so much. I thought £1.50 would be a better price, and  obviously it’s better for Sidmouth than £2. We still don’t like it, but it’s better than it was going to be.”