A row over access to a central Belper car park has reignited after the town council announced plans to charge residents £303 a year to use it.
At a meeting on Tuesday, July 10, councillors agreed to initiate a residents’ parking scheme for 10 new spaces on the St John’s Chapel car park, to be created as part of a £36,000 resurfacing project.
It comes just months after the council barred local homeowners from accessing the land, which they had used informally for many years, so that councillors and visitors could park more easily.
Resident Andrew Wilson said: “Town councillors have based the £303 charge on Amber Valley Council car parks, which might work for business owners who can recover the cost, but this is totally different.
“Where Derbyshire County Council has residents’ parking schemes, it is £38 for a year, which is more proportionate. Belper is not a rich community and lots of households can’t spare an extra £25 a month.”
He added: “When you couple it with the £36,000 of public money they are spending on the project, it’s abhorrent.
“The council are out of touch, self serving and making money out of residents for no benefit to the community.”
The council agreed a 75-year lease with the Diocese of Derby earlier this year, paying nothing until 2021 and £7,700 a year thereafter.
Andrew said: “Inevitably there will be a rent increase. This is at least a further £500,000 liability on tax payers’ monies. This is surely immoral and cannot continue.
“We have done surveys, and once a month for council meetings there are 12-16 vehicles there for two hours. Otherwise there are one or two.”
Residents were banned from the car park due to the lease initially stipulating that only 21 parking spaces were allowed, as access to the car park crossed consecrated ground so traffic must be minimal.
After residents challenged that arrangement, both the council and the diocese have been forced to reconsider.
Andrew said: “Taking 10 cars off the road will make a big difference to congestion, which has caused problems for residents forced to park far away and large vehicle access.”
“This has come from our lobbying, but it’s not the solution we wanted.”
A council spokesman said: “Members decided that if the council was going to stay at St John’s the use of the car park would be essential. That means the heritage centre remains open and the area continues to be well maintained.
“The church was about to close off the land due to health and safety concerns if the council has not taken on the lease. Income from letting parking spaces reduces the cost to tax payers.”