Rises in parking charges in Bridport and West Bay have described as 'clumsy' and 'over-simplistic'.

As reported, Dorset Council has upped charges at its car parks, including the Bridport Arms, Esplanade, Quayside, East Beach, Station Yard and West Bay Road car parks to a staggering £15 a day.

Bridport Town Council has blasted Dorset Council's approach.

Cllr Dave Rickard, leader of Bridport Town Council, said: "We echo the residents and visitors to Bridport and West Bay in our concern regarding the sudden sharp increase in parking fees, and we have asked Dorset Council for information on car park usage since the latest rise so that we can monitor the impact.

“The town council recognises Dorset Council’s need to compensate for a large reduction in government funding to councils over recent years, without adding to residents’ Council Tax bills.

"We also understand that parking charges can be a useful tool in discouraging unnecessary car journeys, but the lack of support for public transport in rural areas by both the government and Dorset Council gives most people no other alternative.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News:

East Beach car park

"We also don’t agree that their ‘one size fits all’ approach should apply to tourist towns on the Jurassic Coast, designed amongst other things to attract visitors.

“We already have anecdotal evidence of a detrimental effect on the area, particularly in West Bay where attractions such as West Bay Discovery Centre are reporting a reduction in visitor numbers compared with last year. Sellers at the West Bay car boot sale have noticed an immediate reduction in footfall.

READ: Concern for West Bay traders as parking prices soar

"Over the rest of the summer the Town Council will be carrying out its latest economic ‘health check’, which looks at a range of evidence including car park usage, footfall, shopping habits, retailer feedback, and market stall take-up. This will help us to analyse the effect of the new charges.

“We also know that public transport in Dorset is wholly inadequate as an alternative to the car. We see this in the degradation of services locally – the loss of a town bus service, reductions in bus frequencies, and the withdrawal of many Sunday services, and so on.

READ:'Making first two hours of parking free would help before more shops disappear'

"The pandemic has made the situation more challenging for bus operators, but even prior to 2020 Dorset’s bus services had seen a cut of 63 per cent in financial support from the then Dorset County Council over a nine-year period, while neighbouring Devon saw a 14 per cent increase. Until such time as residents, workers, and visitors are properly served by decent bus services, major increases in parking fees will always be difficult to justify.

“The approach adopted by Dorset Council, categorising towns and coastal areas without taking account of individual circumstances, is a further concern. Bridport isn’t Blandford, and West Bay isn’t Weymouth.

Bridport and Lyme Regis News: ON-SITE RECYLING: Coun Dave RickardCllr Dave Rickard

"These places all have their own local factors that will influence how much people will pay to park there. Dorset Council will argue that it’s equitable across the area to group places in this way, but it’s not – it’s a convenient excuse for administrative simplicity. The fair solution is to look at each of these places individually to establish the appropriate balance between raising income from parking, whilst maintaining and encouraging economic activity and meeting the needs of residents and workers. The whole of Dorset Council’s area will benefit from the success of a ‘tailored’ local approach.

“There is a danger in the rather clumsy approach Dorset Council has taken, that the years spent establishing Dorset and the Jurassic Coast as a popular destination, will be undermined by decisions that have seen daily charges rise from £2 to £15 in two years in places like West Bay. The rationale behind these increases needs to be balanced against the economic impact. If the parking figures, alongside other data we are collecting show a significant adverse effect, we would expect to see immediate action in relation to parking fees.

"In any case, we urge Dorset Council to reconsider its oversimplistic structure of charges, and to ‘up its game’ in securing additional funding for public transport.”

A spokesperson for Dorset Council said: "When Dorset Council formed, there were many different charges across the council area and some car park charges, such as West Bay, had not increased for many years and were not covering costs.

"Parking income covers the maintenance costs of the car parks and any surplus is used to support our highways improvement projects."