RESIDENTS of a small seaside town have slammed tourists for making it one of the UK's most expensive places to park and accused the council of cashing in.
Prices are set to more than double as the local authority seeks to make the most of the town's popularity.
The controversial new plans could see hourly charges in Whitstable, Kent, rise from £1.60 to £3.70.
This would make it the priciest part of the Kent coast for motorists looking to park up.
Residents have reacted with fury to the move, which is combined with a proposed end to free midweek parking which, they say, benefitted parents on the school run.
The Labour-Lib Dem coalition that took over Canterbury City Council at May's local elections has received a fierce backlash to the new scheme, which was branded "crazy" by some locals.
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Mehmet Dari, who runs restaurants in both Whitstable and nearby Herne Bay, told KentOnline that he feared the increased charges would hurt his business amid the cost of living crisis.
He said: "If customers are going to stay with us for three hours, parking will be more than £10, plus the meal.
"It will affect the business and you will see more empty shops in the high street, which is already struggling.
"We have a lot of local people in the Herne Bay restaurant rather than a lot of tourists, so it is going to affect us and them.
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"When there are empty shops, that will impact the council as it will not be able to get business rates."
The outlet reports that the city council already earns almost three times more from parking than the next council in the county, with £45 million raked in between 2017 and 2022.
Conservative opposition leader Councillor Rachel Carnac added: "It appears this council is cashing in on people enjoying our coastline and spending money in Herne Bay and Whitstable – whether they are locals or visitors.
"The rises are detrimental for businesses trying to recover after the pandemic and now through the cost of living crisis.
"We will fight these increases and will back our coastal communities, which need support."
However, Mike Sole, council cabinet member for finance, maintained that the charges were necessary for the council to deal with "huge challenges to its financial position".
He cited a "post-pandemic hangover", rising interest rates and uncertainty over the level of funding from central government going forward as key factors in the decision.
Cllr Sole went on: "I am delighted we are proposing to consult on a draft budget that is designed to deliver on the manifestos of the Labour and Lib Dem coalition and show we care about our residents, the environment and business.
"We have been in listening mode before the election in May and since we took office and we hope our proposals reflect that.
"We’re keen to hear everyone’s views if permission to consult is granted by the Cabinet, especially residents whose money we spend through the council tax system and who elected us to improve their day-to-day lives."
The proposed changes will be considered as part of the council's draft budget at 7pm on Monday.
If approved, the consultation on the new parking fees will run between November 13 and January 8 before a final decision is made.
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