PARKING charges in towns and villages across the New Forest are to be reintroduced next week.

From Monday on-duty NHS staff and social care staff will be the only people who can continue using car parks for free.

Charges were suspended in March as part of the district council's response to the coronavirus pandemic.

Cllr Edward Heron, cabinet member for planning and infrastructure, said: "We felt it important to offer free parking during the stay-home lockdown to support essential journeys by carers and NHS staff, but the time is now right to reintroduce fees."

New Forest Post:

Cllr Heron said the move was "appropriate" following the gradual easing of the lockdown.

He added: "Like many organisations, we have been affected financially by the coronavirus.

"We are looking carefully at how the money we receive from central government, the council tax and the fees we charge will enable us to continue to provide essential services for our community."

Cllr Heron said parking fees were an important source of revenue for the council and their suspension was always going to be temporary.

He added: "Charges in our car parks remain among the best value in the south, in a deliberate move to balance the need to charge for parking with the desire to also support our high streets.

"We of course continue to support the NHS free parking scheme in all our car parks.”

Income from parking fees goes towards the upkeep of car parks as well as supporting the council’s general fund.

New Forest Post:

Without car parking income the average council tax bill would have to rise by £49 to enable the authority to continue providing the current level of services.

Many motorists buy a permit, known as as parking clock, for a one-off payment, while others prefer use the ticket machines every time they visit a council-owned car park.

A council spokesperson said: "Customers with first-quarter long-stay parking clocks (January-March) can use them throughout June.

"New second-quarter long-stay clocks for the remaining 30 days of the quarter (April–June) can be purchased for £12 online at newforest.gov.uk/parkingclocks."