A COUNCIL’S bid to introduce a hike in car parking charges in Maldon has been slammed by a heritage group.

Maldon Society chairman Judy Lea said the district council’s proposal to increase town centre parking charges is “unwelcome”.

The rise, which would bring in an extra £90,000 in revenue to the council, was approved for consideration at a meeting this month.

Mrs Lea said: “They seriously need to think again.

“With both the General Election fall-out and Christmas happening this is obviously a very good time to bury unwelcome proposals.

“We appreciate that the town is on a very weak footing politically within Maldon District Council.

“Yet the district’s chargeable public parking falls wholly within the town and has a vital relationship with the town centre’s economy, including the hard-pressed high street.

“Nevertheless, the district’s four-strong member parking task and finish group includes no member directly connected with an area that charges for parking.

“This surely has to be appallingly unrepresentative of the ‘task’ involved and makes a mockery of the democratic process.

“All four should be from the town, yet leader Adrian Fluker is allegedly adamant no Independents should serve on any working party, however experienced or knowledgeable.”

A meeting is due to take place next month with business and community representatives, including Mrs Lea.

But she said: “If this was genuine consultation it would have taken place before ever a figure of £90,000 was dreamt of, and the meeting’s agenda papers would have included relevant data analysis from the parking meters to generate thoughts based on facts.

“It looks very much as if the district council is instead set to plead poverty yet again, as usual looking to further increase parking charges which are already the major single source of income for the whole of the entire district council’s fees and charges.

“Town centre parking alone in the first six months of this year had raised £17,000 over and above what was raised in the equivalent period last year. Since then of course we have had the problematic roll out of new machines just when parking had to be a simple process in order to encourage maximum possible trade.

“Lighting for the machines is still inadequate, and people’s biggest beef is the need for more parking provision – not higher charges.”

Bryan Harker, council strategy and resources chairman, said: “The committee has agreed with the principle of reviewing our fees and charges policy.

“However, proposed changes to these, which include car park charges, will first be discussed with the joint car park stakeholder engagement group in January before any proposals are recommend for consideration by members at the budget setting meeting in February 2020.”