PLANS to almost double on and off-street parking charges in Blandford have now been confirmed by Dorset Council.

A formal consultation has been launched after informal discussions with residents, town and parish councils and others in a bid to introduce a fairer charging system for the whole county, where many of the current charges are higher than in the former North Dorset.

The proposals mean that the cost of short stay parking in Blandford will rise from 30p to 50p for 30 minutes and from £2.40 to £4 for four hours - £6 for six.

Longstay parking faces an even greater hike, from £1.50 (10 hours) or £2 (24 hours) to £6 for all day.

But the council has also announced two proposed new parking permits which will be usable in most rather than a single named car park – one costing £260 a year for long stay parking, and the other costing £78 a year for short stay.

And it is now consulting on Blue Badge parking for the disabled, with an opportunity for residents to take part by September 25 in a survey which can be found on the council’s website consultation page at www.dorsetcouncil.gov.uk/blue-badge-consultation

For the new parking charges, Blandford, along with most other market towns and shopping centres. has been placed in the second of three tiers reflecting the area the parking spaces are in,

Both Shaftesbury and Blandford Town Councils have queried the inclusion of Gillingham in the first tier, with smaller rural towns such as Sturminster Newton.

And in a response drawn up by a group of Blandford town councillors, a strong defence of free Sunday parking was submitted.

Writing on the group’s behalf, deputy town clerk Sybille Maddocks, said: “Casual observation of the paying car parks on a Sunday reveals little use. Town centre residents with no parking on their properties prefer to park on residential roads rather than pay the charges. This cannot be economically viable for Dorset Council.

“Ideally we would like to see the complete removal of Sunday parking charges from all but the in-season tourist areas, and the policy of charging for car-parking on a Sunday be judged against objective evidence on its effect and the negative impact on communities.“

She added that reasonably priced parking permits might encourage people to use them, but the suggested increase of approximately 300 per cent in the town’s long-stay parking charges would also increase the pressure on residential streets and on-street parking, which is generally free of charge in the town centre and will remain so.

Final proposals will be presented to Dorset Council’s Place and Resources Overview Committee in October, so that Cabinet can vote early in November on implementation and the introduction of new charges and permits in January 2022.