A FRESH attempt to start charging at some of Craven's currently free car parks is being fiercely opposed.

Next week, Craven District Council will once again look at charging at Bentham, Cross Hills and Gargrave car parks.

It last rejected proposals to start charging just 18 months ago following strong opposition from ward members and businesses.

Now, a recommendation to the council's Policy Committee on Tuesday (Aug 19) is to approve the bringing in of pay and display machines - subject to the approval of the highways authority, North Yorkshire County Council.

A report to committee says charging will help the council manage vehicle movement and turnover, which in turn will help to the 'vitality and viability' of the villages or towns.

It also points to the long term use of parking spaces by residents, workers or commuters leaving no space for shoppers and visitors.

"A contribution from the motorist for parking also helps subsidise the cost of maintaining the car parks, keeping the asset in good condition adding to the overall upkeep of the area," adds the report by the council's asset and project manager, Hazel Smith.

But Alister (correct) Witherington, chairman of business group South Craven Together and owner of Aire Valley Kitchens Cross Hills, said his members were strongly opposed to the plans which they saw as nothing more than a money making exercise by the council.

He said the group, which had been formed about a year and a half ago to work with the council, had only found about the proposals by accident.

It has since arranged a meeting with Hazel Smith before next week's decision meeting and aims to present its objections to councillors on Tuesday.

But he added: "This is not a consultation to get our views, they would have spoken to us weeks ago if it was. As far as we're concerned, this is just money-grabbing."

Glusburn councillor Philip Barrett said he was very concerned at the speed in which the council had returned to charging.

Glusburn and Cross Hills Parish Council has also only just found out about the proposals, but is not due to meet until Thursday - after a decision has been made.

Cllr Barrett said: "It was less than 18 months ago that the council accepted the report from the Select Committee not to charge in Cross Hills because of the impact on local businesses."

The three car parks where parking charges are proposed are: Grasmere Drive, Bentham; Hall Street and Milligans Field, Cross Hills, and North Street, Gargrave.

Tuesday's meeting of the Policy Committee will take place at 6.30pm at Craven District Council, Belle Vue Square, Broughton Road.

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