Click HERE to read Southampton's City Council's draft parking policy.

A RADICAL shake-up of car parking in Southampton could see charges rocket, new fees for permits and fewer city centre spaces.

Council transport chiefs have drawn up a new parking policy that aims to avoid creating more congestion as the city grows with new homes and businesses.

It proposes a cap on new city centre spaces after consultants found there were up to 3,000 unused spaces at peak times and said some should be sold off for redevelopment.

Transport chiefs say higher parking charges could be brought in to "encourage the use of other modes of transport where feasible", such as buses and bicycles.

Residents should be made to pay for all parking permits while new resident parking zones in the city centre are ruled out.

However in the suburbs residents will get preferential treatment to tackle problems with commuter parking and congestion around the hospital and university.

The proposals come as parking charges have already gone up twice in the past 12 months and £2 overnight charges have been introduced in multi-storey car parks.

The draft policy says that while a park and ride scheme has been shelved as not economically viable - until at least 2011 - businesses should be asked to pay for employer based schemes.

It also suggests business parking permits, currently £288 a year, should be time-limited to clamp down on commuter use.

And plans being drawn up for an out of town park for heavy goods lorries, as revealed in the Daily Echo, should be taken forward.

Loads would be transported in by smaller vans.

David Redgewell, a spokesman for the Campaign for Better Transport, said he broadly welcomed the parking policy but said more investment in buses was needed for it to work.

"If you want to encourage people on to public transport you need to create some sort of bus station in the city centre. You've got to offer them a decent waiting facility.

"Southampton is probably the only big city in the country that doesn't have a central bus station.

It's one of the worst in Europe for public transport waiting facilities. It's dire."

Mr Redgewell said a proper interchange at the central train station was essential and suggested building a bus station on a surplus car park. But he said any removed spaces should be replaced by a park and ride scheme.

He insisted: "Any extra revenue from parking needs to subsidise public transport."

The parking proposals were met with a frosty response from businesses.

The Southampton and Fareham Chamber of Commerce said it had yet to be consulted on the proposals.

But head of representation Kristine Salomon-Olsen said it appeared the council was trying to stop people coming to work by car and warned a big stick approach would just drive car parking elsewhere.

Rashmi Chandre from the East Street Traders' Association said if there were surplus car spaces it was because traffic was being deliberately diverted to WestQuay shopping centre, which was hurting the small trader.

Louis Slack, chairman of Southampton Federation of Tenants and Residents Associations, questioned the consultant's findings.

"Whatever way you look at it there isn't enough parking spaces in Southampton," he said, adding the first residents' permits should continue to be free.

"If you are living in a certain place why should you be penalised for having a car?"

Councillor Richard Williams, chairman of the transport scrutiny panel, said the policy needed to be more flexible over inner city parking and discounted permits for residents in car parks and pay zones needed to be explored.

Cllr Williams added that he had also called for a "deadzone" to be introduced for workers parking early in multi-storey car parks being caught by the new £2 overnight charge.

Lindsi Bluemel from Southampton Cycling Campaign welcomed any moves to encourage commuters to ditch their cars but was doubtful the policy would go far enough.

She said: "I am not sure it will work to be honest but anything that makes things better for cycling increases the number of cyclists. I am slightly concerned about not providing parking as it creates problems for residents.

The policy must go alongside better provision for cyclists.

"Although they do provide cycle lanes, some are patchy and pointless.

In Hill Lane and Portswood Road the lanes abruptly stop when the road gets busier and that is the reason people do not use them.

Outside Asda there is a ten metre stretch. It is useless. If more money raised from parking is used to improve cycle lanes then more people will start cycling. The majority of journeys are only a few miles and can be cycled by more people."

The draft policy is based on recommendations made in a lengthy report by transport consultants Halcrow.

The council's Tory transport boss, Councillor Gavin Dick, stressed that the proposals were not Conservative policy.

"We will review it and take the good points and ditch the bad," he said, adding "we will take a holistic approach to parking in the city centre."

Cllr Dick will produce a Cabinet report in March.