An offer to take over responsibility of Bentham’s currently free public car parks has been rejected by the town council.

Craven District Council, currently responsible for the town’s four car parks, had offered the town council the opportunity of taking on the sites at a peppercorn rent.

The district council, which is considering ways of cutting costs and generating income, made the offer to Bentham Town Council, along with a similar offer to Gargrave Parish Council for its public car parks.

Another option was to start charging at the free car parks.

Last night, the select committee was due to hear that Bentham Town Council was rejecting the offer on grounds of cost to its residents.

In a letter to the committee, Jo Burton, clerk of Bentham Town Council, said the running and maintenance costs were too much to pass on to its council tax payers.

Councillors, who had discussed taking on the car parks and who were now faced with charges being introduced, had also been unable to confirm that the setting up of a charitable trust would mean rate relief.

Mrs Burton said the town council had considered the current annual running costs of more than £5,300 and insurance of almost £200, but that the biggest hurdle was the ongoing maintenance costs of more than £11,000 a year.

“The council noted the fact that, due to the complete lack of maintenance in the last decade or more, the 15-year cycle would not be applicable as Lairgill and potentially Cleveland Square and Grasmere Drive car parks will need substantial work in the near future.”

She added that the council had noted that the recent work at Lairgill, which had cost £2,002, was of “poor quality” and not likely to last the winter if there was significant frost.

“The council agreed that it could not ask Bentham residents to cover these extra costs of at least £16,000 per year and that it should decline to take over the car parks as suggested by the council,” said Mrs Burton.

The costs would mean an increase in the council’s precept of 16 per cent.

She added that the council hoped to be consulted if plans were now to introduce charging at Grasmere Drive and Cleveland Square car parks.

Any decisions made by the district council’s select committee will have to go to the policy committee for confirmation.