CAR parking ticket sales have fallen in Poole since charges were controversially increased last year, a report has revealed.

When the council decided to increase town centre parking charges, businesses and campaigners argued it would drive people away at a time when efforts were being made to increase footfall.

In April 2017, an hour’s parking increased by 20p to £1, with the rate increasing by £1 for every additional hour.

Overall, usage of the town centre car parks reduced by seven per cent after the new charges were introduced. Since April 2018, ticket sales have decreased further by 10 per cent. However, income from parking has increased by seven per cent.

In a report to the place overview and scrutiny committee, which meets on October 16, head of growth and infrastructure Julian McLaughlin says “increased bus patronage… may be contributing to the decrease in take up of town centre parking”.

“This should be looked at in conjunction with information collected by Poole BID (Business Improvement District) which shows declining footfall in the town centre,” he adds.

Charges in district car parks in Broadstone, Penn Hill, Ashley Road and elsewhere increased significantly in spring 2017, with the cost of an hour’s parking soaring from 40p to £1.

The council’s findings show ticket sales dropped by 31 per cent during April 2017, when compared to April 2016. Over the remainder of the year, sales declined by nearly a quarter on average. However, income from ticket sales increased by 33 per cent overall.

In Broadstone, the opening of Marks and Spencer Foodhall in February 2018 lessened the impact of the increased charges, the council says.

One of the more unpopular decisions was to increase parking charges at parks across Poole, including Hamworthy Park, Whitecliff Park, Ham Common, Lake Pier, and Newfoundland Drive.

When increase charges were first proposed, residents objected in their thousands and signed a petition.

Parkstone Bay Residents’ Association was concerned people would park in nearby residential roads to avoid the new charges.

As well as finding a “sharp decline in numbers parking in the parks”, Mr McLaughlin’s report mentions council officers have received complaints about unrestricted parking in roads near to parks, especially Sandbanks Road, Whitecliff Road, Lulworth Avenue, and Branksea Avenue.

“At Hamworthy Park, regardless of whether the car park is full or not, there remains a tendency for people to park on the streets surrounding it,” Mr McLaughlin says.

“The introduction of parking charges in the parks has enabled park users to access car parking that was previously occupied by commuters.

“When charges reverted to zero in November 2017 through to March 2018 the gate was locked overnight to deter commuter parking. This measure worked well as a deterrent and will be repeated during winter 2018/19.”

He adds that officers in the growth and infrastructure department are “continuing to monitor and review the impact of parking charges on the beaches, town centre, districts, parks, and on street.”

Further investigations will be made into measures to further reduce congestion around the beach areas, particularly Sandbanks. Also, the provision of free on-street parking adjacent to some parks will be considered.