THE borough council has approved plans to introduce parking charges to Eastrop, in a move labelled as a “quiet suppression of democracy”.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council consulted with the public on plans to introduce charges to Eastrop car parks, which would have cost £12.80 to park for the day.

It received 132 responses from councillors, individuals, and groups, many of whom objected to the plans.

However, the council has now made a decision on new proposals, giving people just seven days to consult.

In a report published on October 13, Councillor Hayley Eachus, cabinet member for recycling, waste, and regulatory services, said: “I have carefully considered all the points raised and the concerns about the scale of the 2 of 8 charges removing a low-cost activity for families, especially for those who can only drive to the park or are on low incomes, and the impact on groups using the park for a range of activities.”

The council instead proposed lowering the charges to £1 for two hours; £2 for up to four hours; £4 for up to six hours; £7 for up to eight hours; and £8 for over 8 hours.

Cllr Eachus said the charges aimed to “deter people parking to go to other locations”.

She added: “These changes are designed to strike the balance between not restricting access to a low cost town centre activity for people and families and encouraging cycling and walking and deterring those who are parking there to go to other places in the town centre.

“The funds raised from the charges will go towards maintaining and improving the park at a time of rising costs and reducing funding for the council.”

The report said that the council is facing a £4.3 million budget gap by 2024/25, which has been put “under further pressure as a result of the Covid-19 pandemic”.

It added: “Introducing parking charges at Eastrop car parks, in line with other town centre car parks, will strike a fair balance for those visiting the park and those who park at the site and visit the town centre. This would also raise additional income to support the ongoing maintenance and improvement of the park.”

However, Paul Basham, a Basingstoke resident, accused the council of “quiet suppression of democracy” for pushing through the plans without further consultation.

He said: “This draft traffic order was issued on Thursday morning – after the Gazette went to print – with just seven days’ consultation – to expire the day that the next edition of the Gazette is published. This offers no sensible timeframe for public consultation.”

He added: “Given that there were 132 responses to the last consultation, plus 98 signatories to the Model Boat Club’s objection, this quiet announcement plus the very short consultation period smacks of dirty tricks to force the decision through.”

The borough council has been asked for a comment.