DRIVERS are boycotting a town centre car park after council chiefs went ahead with a controversial plan to levy charges.
The Rumbridge Street car park in Totton has 132 spaces – but most have stood empty since a pay-and-display meter was installed three months ago.
New Forest District Council ignored more than 70 objections and forged ahead with proposals to axe free parking.
A spot check by the Daily Echo revealed seven parking spaces were occupied. The other 125, including ten where people can park free for an hour, were empty.
Campaigners who fought the introduction of charges said some of their worst fears had come true.
Councillor David Harrison claimed that motorists were parking in residential streets to dodge the new fees, which range from £1.50 for two hours’ parking to £5 for 20 hours.
He added: “The car park is now just a great big empty waste of space.
“Hardly anything is being made through selling tickets.
Once the cost of the ticket machines and the wardens is taken into account it must be making a loss.
“Why would motorists pay up to £5 a day when they can park in nearby roads or even on grass verges.”
But a council spokesman claimed that more motorists were using the Elingfield and Winsor Road car parks, which were nearer Totton railway station, now that the Rumbridge Street facility was no longer free.
The number of pay-anddisplay meters in the New Forest rose in July following a review.
The spokesman added: “The business rates payable on the Rumbridge Street car park will have risen to £14,000 by next April so it’s important we generate as much revenue as possible, otherwise this will become a burden on the general council tax payer.
“The council doesn’t believe the general council tax payer, or those who don’t own a car, should pay for the provision of parking.”
The Rumbridge Street meter took a total of just £1,415 in July-September.
But the council says these are traditionally quiet months in Totton because people are away on holiday.
The spokesman stressed that the car park was still free at weekends and on bank holidays.