Shocked householders are fighting a proposal that would see residents' parking permits in one Somerset town rise by 875 per cent over three years.
Proposals to introduce a £100 "loading permit" for businesses county-wide, when loading is already a legally approved exemption, have also raised eyebrows.
Somerset County Council, which now administers the permits, wants to bring consistency across the county where three district councils used to run the schemes and set the fees. The county says it also needs to raise prices to cover the costs of administration, enforcement and maintenance. It is consulting on proposals which would see the fee for a resident's first vehicle – in affected streets – rise in stages to £70 by 2016-2017. That means a meteoric price rise in Minehead, where the fee set by West Somerset Council is only £8. The same permit currently costs £35 in Taunton and in Yeovil, where the fees were set by Taunton Deane Borough Council and South Somerset District Council respectively.
Somerset County Councillor and Minehead Town Councillor Tony Venner yesterday dubbed the scale of the rise in his town as: "absolutely crazy".
"I have had quite a few calls about it," he said. "People are not against an increase. £8 was very reasonable, but it is the scale of the rise over such a short space of time that is a concern. Personally I think there should be an increase, but not 875 per cent in three years. If this was to take place over five years it would be different. I would also make a case for an exception for Minehead. It is not on the same scale as Yeovil or Taunton, and I am concerned that any increase should not be about making money, but only about covering costs."
Somerset County Council says that while loading and unloading is a permitted exemption, businesses have reported problems, especially if they have unmarked vehicles. A business permit would cost £150, and a loading permit £100.
John Richards, a Watchet town councillor involved with Watchet Chamber of Commerce said: "To be asked to pay £100 for what is legally allowed sounds very odd."
Motorcycles would no longer need permits, in recognition of their greener credentials.
A spokesman for Somerset County Council said: "The proposals aim to make the current system fairer across the county by standardising rates and ensuring the parking service can cover its costs now and in the future. We want to stress that all parking related income generated whether from permits or penalties is used to cover the cost of administering, maintaining and enforcing parking services."
The consultation runs until Friday.