A COUNCIL is to start charging for parking in a town centre on a Sunday for the first time from next month.

The new fees for on and off-street parking in Blackburn have been condemned as ‘short-sighted’ and ‘fleecing’ drivers who want to go shopping.

The charges of £1 for up to three hours and £2 for more than three hours are part of a general increase in parking costs agreed on Friday.

The fees for on-street meter parking and for parking on the council’s off-street car parks will rise by 20 pence for each band. The council’s traffic enforcement officers will be deployed on Sundays when the new charges are introduced.

Blackburn with Darwen regeneration boss Phil Riley, who made the decision, said the fee had been pegged since 2011 while the shopping experience in the town had improved greatly.

Blackburn Council car parks include Brown Street, Barton Street, Fleming Square, King Street, Salford, Simmons Street, Weir Street, Waves, Watford Street, Mill Lane, Starkie Street, and Feilden Street multi-storey. Fees in Darwen will be unaffected.

Cllr Derek Hardman, Conservative regeneration spokesman, said: “This is counterproductive.

“It is all about fleecing shoppers using cars to raise money. It will put back the regeneration of the town centre, and reduce footfall at weekends.

“We are going to call in this decision for a special committee of councillors to reconsider it.

“Our group thinks they should change their minds and drop the increases, especially the new charge on a Sunday.”

Tony Duckworth President of Blackburn and District Chamber of Trade said: “This is a short-sighted decision which will put off drivers from coming to the town centre for shopping and leisure.

“It is small traders who will suffer. It’s all about raising cash for the council.

“Instead of increasing charges, the council should bring back the ‘free after three’ parking charge policy it operated from 2013 to 2016 to boost footfall in Blackburn town centre.”

In 2017/2018 Blackburn with Darwen Council’s gross income from parking charges and related fines was £872,580 before the costs of civil enforcement officers, new machinery and meter maintenance. Nearly half a million parking payment transactions were completed across the borough.

Cllr Riley said: “We have not increased our car parking charges since 2011 and the shopping experience in Blackburn is now greatly improved.

“We consulted with retailers’ representatives and they feel the new charges would have little effect.

“We have never charged for parking on Sundays before and will be deploying enforcement officers on Sundays when the new fees come in.

“The new charges are less than The Mall in Blackburn and Preston City Council, both of which charge on Sundays; lower than Bolton and far less than central Manchester. The free-after-three initiative had little effect on footfall.

“The charges are due to be introduced next month after the statutory 21 days' notice although they will be delayed if there is a ‘call in’ committee.”

Dean of Blackburn the Very Rev Peter Howell-Jones said: “The new Sunday charges may have some slight effect on Cathedral congregations but most worshippers park in our grounds. It is a difficult balance for a council between charging for parking and encouraging visitors to their town centres.”

The new charge for on-street short-stay car parking between 8am and 6pm will rise from 60p to 80p for 30 minutes; £1.20 to £1.40 for an hour; from £1.80 to £2 for an hour and 30 minutes; and from £2.20 to £2,40 for two hours.

The fees for on street long-stay parking will rise from £1.30 to £1.50 for two hours; from £2.20 to £2.40 for four hours; from £3.10 to £3.30 for six hours; and from £3,80 to £4 for more than six hours.

Short-stay off street parking charges between 8am to 6pm will see increase from £1 to £1.20 for one hours; from £1.70 to to £1.90; from £2.40 to £2.60 for three hours; from £3.80 to £4 for five hours and from £8 to £8.20 for more than five hours.

For long-stay car parks fees rise from £1.30 to £1.50 for up to two hours; from £2.20 to £2.40 for four hours; from £3.10 to £3.30 for six hours; and from £3.80 to £4 for more than six hours.

The charges for Feilden Street multi-storey, which will remain closed on Sundays, will increase from £1 to £1.20 for an hour; from £1.50 to £1.70 for two hours; from £2.50 to £2.70 for four hours; from £3.70 to £3.90 to £6 and to £6.20 for more than eight hours.

Short-stay council car parks in towns including Darwen, Accrington, Rawtenstall, Haslingden, Nelson and Colne are mainly free with Burnley and Clitheroe levying small charges.