CHESHIRE East Council looks set to drive through controversial new parking charges despite opposition from more than 8,000 residents who had their say in the consultation.

The proposals, which council officers have recommended be approved at Thursday’s (January 25) highways committee meeting, include introducing charges in the existing ‘free’ towns of Alsager, Audlem, Bollington, Handforth, Holmes Chapel, Middlewich, Poynton, Prestbury and Sandbach.

This is ‘to create a fairer parking regime across the borough’, as towns like Crewe, Nantwich, Macclesfield and Knutsford have been paying for years.

Northwich Guardian: Civic Way Car Park in Middlewich is currently freeCivic Way Car Park in Middlewich is currently free (Image: Google)

The council is also gearing up to increase tariffs at most car parks where charging already exists and there are plans to hike up charges across the borough annually.

Other recommendations include ending the scheme whereby users of Crewe and Nantwich leisure centres get their parking costs refunded and off-loading some car parks.

The report asks councillors to give the executive director the go-ahead to ‘engage and agree devolution of any car parks to town and parish councils, where they have expressed a willingness to pursue this option, noting that these negotiations will be pursued so that Cheshire East Council is neither better nor worse off than if proposals for car parking charges were implemented’.

And some under-used car parks could be closed and sold off.

Altogether 8,384 representations were received from across the borough during the six-week consultation period.

Of these 8,127 were objections, 127 neutral and 130 supported the proposals.

Of the total objections, 6,804 came from towns where parking is currently free, with the most – more than 3,000 – coming from Sandbach and more than 1,000 from Alsager.

Northwich Guardian: Total number of representations made to proposals by townTotal number of representations made to proposals by town (Image: Cheshire East Council)

The report due to go to next week’s committee meeting, says some proposals consulted on have been adapted following feedback – including concerns from towns like Middlewich and Alsager about school-run parking.

It says the council has responded to these concerns ‘by proposing a modified charging period during school term time to ensure that all children and young people can continue to be dropped off safely’.

There are also proposals to introduce an ‘up to 30 minute’ tariff band on all short-stay car parks - defined as those with up to four hours maximum stay - across the borough.

The report states: “Many representations made during the statutory consultation highlighted that a large number of visits by users often take less than one hour.”

Cheshire East operates 111 public car parks across the borough and raked in a little more than £5m from parking charges in the year 2022/23.

But it says it currently costs the council approximately £400,000 a year to operate and maintain the free car parks.

The report says: “The proposals for adjusting existing tariffs and introducing charges in free towns are projected to achieve a full year effect, total net revenue, of £1.5m.“

This figure excludes potential savings associated with a review of staff and councillor permits, as well as changes to income from demand responsive parking charges.

The latter is expected to be trialled when the new multi-storey opens in Crewe.

Full information about all the proposals for each individual town and village can be found on the Cheshire East website here.

The highways and transport committee meeting takes place at Macclesfield Town Hall at 10.30am on Thursday, January 25.