CONTROVERSIAL changes to parking in Hampshire have been withdrawn at the last minute.

The county council had been proposing to centralise parking services across the county, in a bid to make the service more efficient. Critics said that would have made tickets and permits more expensive.

The Liberal Democrats say the council has withdrawn the proposals just before 6pm this evening - the day before they were due to be agreed.

Lib Dem spokesperson on Economy, Transport and the Environment, Martin Tod, said: "These proposals were never fit for purpose and it's good that following opposition and district council pressure they've now been withdrawn. Now we need a joined-up plan that isn't just about hiking prices and cutting services.

"It has to make sure on-street car parking and car parks work together - and also centre on the challenges of supporting our local centres, being fair value for residents, ensuring cost effective enforcement and taking on the air quality and climate change challenges that we all face across the county."

Hampshire County Council had been proposing to centralise parking services ending their use as agents of councils including Winchester, Basingstoke, Eastleigh and Havant where on-street parking is managed by the district councils.

Cllr Tod is concerned that this move will have a major impact on residents.

Speaking yesterday before the proposal was withdrawn, he said: "The county’s plan only talks about raising money – and that inevitably means hiking charges and cutting enforcement.

"There’s nothing in there about making sure our high streets thrive, or that we improve air quality, or cut carbon and no guarantees on the level of service and enforcement that residents will receive – or any recognition that we need to offer good value to residents. There’s nothing in there about making sure that on-street and off-street parking rules work together.

"We’ve seen in the areas where they already run the service that Hampshire has hiked prices without any improvement in service or any serious consideration of the needs of local business.

"We don’t want to see the same failure across the rest of Hampshire. These plans need to be scrapped."

Hampshire County Council’s executive member for highways operations, Cllr Russell Oppenheimer, had been due to make a decision tomorrow afternoon (Thursday, September 23).

A spokesperson for HCC said: “The decision was made to withdraw the Parking Agency Agreement Report from the agenda for the Economy, Transport and Environment Decision Day held on 23 September, following further information and issues being brought to our attention by colleagues at the district and borough authorities.

"Simultaneously, very recent developments in terms of the implications of the rollout, beyond London, of Part 6 of the Traffic Management Act - in respect of powers for civil enforcement of traffic offences – must also, rightly, be fully taken into account.

“Recalling the paper ahead of any decision-making procedure will allow time for additional due consideration to be given and enable further discussion with our colleagues at the partner authorities.

"Following this, the report with recommendations will be updated accordingly to reflect the outcome.

"This will be brought forward for a decision at a future Economy, Transport and Environment Decision Day and the aim is that this will be before the end of the current calendar year.”