NEW parking charges throughout the Dorset Council area have moved a step closer to change.

The new county-wide charges, which will see three tiers of parking rates introduced across the area, are due to be introduced in the new year.

Portfolio holder Cllr Ray Bryan, who leads the highways and environment teams, has said there will be some losers from the changes – but it was necessary to have common charges across the district and scrap 70 different permits and replace them with just two.

“I know some people have been upset, but we have taken our time and those who will pay the most will be our visitors,... although that does seem rather unfriendly,” said Cllr Bryan.

The highest tier will be introduced in tourist hot-spots at £10 for ten hours in the high season, £6 maximum in the low season and will cover Weymouth’s car parks nearest the beaches, Corfe Castle, Lyme Regis, some Portland car parks and West Bay.

The next tier down has low and high season rates and will be charged at a maximum of £6 for 10 hours, £3.50 for four hours. These include Dorchester, Blandford, Bridport, Shaftesbury, Sherborne, Wareham, Weymouth (non beach) and Wimborne.

Dorset Echo: The cost of car parks in Dorset is being revised Picture: Dorset CouncilThe cost of car parks in Dorset is being revised Picture: Dorset Council

The lowest tier, for Beaminster, Charmouth, Ferndown, Gillingham, Sturminster Newton, Verwood and West Bexington will also be seasonal, up to a maximum of £10 for Charmouth and West Bexington for ten hours, or £4 off season. Hourly charges at these car parks will be £1 for two hours in the low season and £3 for two hours in the high season.

A range of new charges is also planned for on-street parking, operated by the council, at a maximum of £8 in some areas, £12 in others, with an additional charge of £2 or £4 for overnight parking.

Cllr Bryan says any extra income will be used to help the £60million annual highways budget, only £3m of which comes from local council taxpayers.

He told Monday’s Cabinet that despite the rises the area remained much cheaper than neighbouring councils.

He says a new ‘pop and shop’ permit, costing £78 for the year, will allow up to two hours a day in short stay parking areas while a ‘live, work and play’ permit will allow limited access to short-stay parking and full access to long-stay parking for £260 a year – a figure which Cllr Bryan says equated to just 71p a day.

Cllr Bryan has promised Wimborne councillor Shane Bartlett further talks to see if something can be done to avoid a parking permit increase for the town's residents from £80 to £260 a year.

Cllr Bartlett says the rise is unfair when there is very little parking available for residents in a town which was laid out in the days of horse and cart.

The one change which has been agreed is for the Norden park and ride for the Swanage steam railway on the outskirts of Corfe Castle. It has avoided the higher tier which had been proposed which would have increased day-long fees from £3.50 to £6, will now only rise to £4, according to an announcement at Monday’s Dorset Council Cabinet meeting.

Purbeck councillor Beryl Ezzard welcomed the change. She said had the higher fees been introduced it would have deterred locals and visitors from using the Swanage Railway and add to congestion on the roads.