HUNDREDS of people in Winchester have called for a last-minute rethink on plans to more than double the cost of residents' parking permits.

Winchester civic chiefs have received 250 letters and two petitions from people living across the city who are unhappy at the proposed increases.

Some 3,000 households in the city centre and inner suburbs such as Hyde, Fulflood, St Cross and Highcliffe would be affected by the price increase.

Although the changes were initially approved amid minimal protests in December, the campaign of opposition has been sparked by the formal consultation before the changes are ratified by the council's Cabinet next Thursday.

Campaigner John Bourne, of Arlington Place, Hyde, told the Daily Echo: "People were unaware this was happening. The mood in our area is very hostile."

Councillor Richard Knasel, portfolio holder for economy and transport, said: "I cannot speak for my Cabinet colleagues but my view is to press ahead.

"We are not elected to be popular. We are elected to do the right thing for the district."

Cllr Knasel pointed out that the increase was only the second since the parking permit scheme was introduced generally across the city in 1996. In one small part of Hyde, the charge stayed at £10 a year from 1970 until last year.

He said it was unfair that council tax payers across the district should subsidise the cost of residents-only parking, which is enjoyed by a relatively small number in Winchester.

Cllr Knasel added: "It costs £310,000 a year to administer and we have been receiving £140,000. Councils have to get full costs recovery, but even this increase will not fully cover all the costs."

Cllr Knasel, a Liberal Democrat, said that the increase has cross-party support. The recent county council elections saw Lib Dem candidates comfortably elected in the two city wards, so any political damage appeared to be minimal.

Currently residents in the inner city pay £30 for two permits, but under the new scheme they would pay £70 - an increase 133 per cent.

Householders in the outer area currently pay £90 for two residents' and two vistors' permits. Under the new charges they would pay £170.

The cost of businesses' permits would climb from £200 to £300. Their customers' permits would rise in price from £30 to £50.