CHESHIRE East is to consult the public on introducing Sunday and evening parking charges along with cashless machines after the move was backed by councillors.

The decision to hold a further public consultation was taken yesterday (Thursday) immediately after the highways and transport committee agreed to introduce parking charges in the currently ‘free’ towns and villages and hike up fees in those which already pay.

The council says despite these new charges, which are expected to come into force in October, there is still an £800,000 budget shortfall and these additional measures are needed to address that.

But some members of the highways and transport committee were opposed to some of the new proposals.

The plan to go cashless was agreed, with eight voting in favour and five against, following an amendment that payment by cash be retained as an option on at least one car park per town or parish.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Craig BrowneCllr Craig Browne (Image: Cheshire East Council)Committee chair Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind) told the meeting: “This must be one of the easiest ways available to us, as a council, of saving £100,000 a year.”

He said: “I just don’t buy the argument, if you own a car, you tax it, insure it, maintain it, put fuel in it by paying cash every time and don’t have access to an alternative means of payment.

“For the more vulnerable road users I would have thought being able to pay from the comfort of one’s own vehicle was infinitely preferable than standing in front of a pay and display machine juggling coins.”

But Cllr Hazel Faddes (Crewe, Lab) pointed out 40 per cent of parking payments in the borough were still done by cash and said payment by card only during lockdown had resulted in numerous complaints.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Liz BraithwaiteCllr Liz Braithwaite (Image: Cheshire East Council)Cllr Liz Braithwaite (Macclesfield, Lab) said going cashless would have a disproportionate impact on the elderly, disabled and less well-off.

“Just because someone has a bank card doesn’t mean they have money in the account, especially just before pay day,” she said.

“Many more people are using cash as a way of managing their money.”

Cllr Russell Chadwick (Dane Valley, Con) raised concerns about evening and Sunday parking charges.

Knutsford Guardian: Cllr Russell ChadwickCllr Russell Chadwick (Image: Cllr Russell Chadwick)“Sunday parking is a pay to pray charge and I certainly will not be supporting that,” he said.

And he feared evening charges would have an impact on revitalising town centres.

“A lot of the shops have got empty flats above and what we’re trying to do is encourage people to live in those properties,” he said.

“Because they’re terraced houses, if we start to charge them [to park] in the evening, when they get home from work, they’ve got to start paying for living in the town and it’s not going to help revitalise our towns and villages.”

The committee voted in favour of going to public consultation on proposals to introduce Sunday charging at the same rate as weekdays and to extend parking charges to cover evening periods from 6pm to 10pm.

It also narrowly approved – by seven votes to six – consulting on proposals to revoke the ‘four free days’ currently available to town and parish councils.

But the plan to start charging motorists from 8am across the borough will not go ahead following concerns from several councillors this would affect the school run.