FEARS have been raised about the impact of rising parking charges at Dorset County Hospital on surrounding roads in Dorchester.

The hospital announced that is will be increasing parking fees for members of the public from April with the increased revenue set to be re-invested into parking improvements and patient services.

However, Cllr Susie Hosford, who is chairman of Dorchester Town Council's planning and environment committee, has raised concerns about the impact both on people visiting the hospital and on roads surrounding the site, which are already plagued with parking problems.

The changes will see parking for one hour rise from £1.60 to £1.70, two hours go up from £2.10 to £2.60, four hours rise from £4.20 to £4.70 and the charge for more than four hours increase from £6.50 to £7.

Cllr Hosford said: "It's extremely disappointing because it hits people who need to park to attend appointments or visit relatives.

"There is a danger as well that it will impact even further on residential streets in the area that are already full of people parking for the hospital."

Cllr Hosford added that the area around the hospital was being considered as part of a strategic parking policy being drawn up by Dorset County Council to try and address some of the issues with parking in the town.

Hospital bosses have defended the increases, which come after rises to staff parking charges were introduce last year.

Director of finance and resources Libby Walters said: "While staff parking charges have been reviewed and increased recently, public car parking charges have remained unchanged for several years.

"The Trust Board last reviewed the charges in 2012 and rejected an increase at that time.

"Now we feel the time is right to increase the charges so that we can invest the extra revenue into improving car parking on site and clinical services.

"The new charges bring us in line with other NHS trusts in the region when we look at the average charges.

"We will be creating a new drop-off area at the main front entrance to the hospital and we are developing plans to create additional spaces for public use. Any further additional income will be re-invested into local healthcare services.

"The increased parking charges will not affect the many concessionary arrangements we have in place. Parking will remain free for blue badge holders, dialysis and chemotherapy patients and in the drop-off zones.

"Free parking is also available for families of palliative care patients and those being cared for in our intensive care, high dependency and critical care units, Kingfisher Ward and SCBU.

"We offer all-day parking for maternity, day surgery and endoscopy patients at the one hour rate. We also offer visitor concession parking permits on all our wards – visitors should speak to the ward their relative is staying on for details."