COUNCIL leaders have decided to lift the brake on parking problems in Lymington by increasing the ratio of short to long-stay spaces and agreeing to talk to private land-owners about using their parking lots.

The scheme, which follows a New Forest District Council study into the town’s parking issues, was welcomed by cabinet member Cllr Colin Wise who said “the ability to park is vital to the viability and well-being of our market towns”.

Cllr Paul Vickers said the scheme had received the support of the chamber of commerce, which agreed that if there are too many long-stay spaces “you negate the people you want to come into the town itself”.

“There was a very rapid realisation that the livelihood of the town depends on the amount of people who come into the town,” he said.

The study found demand exceeds capacity by 10 per cent in Lymington on summer holiday Saturday market days, while on low-season weekdays there is 24 per cent extra capacity.

In face-to-face surveys 94 per cent of people thought the cost of parking good or reasonable value, and the same percentage would visit again, even though 17 per cent of them had “considerable difficulty in parking” in the town centre.

The consultees – the town council, Hampshire Highways, local councillors, chamber of commerce and Lymington Society – agreed that utilising private parking would allow more council-owned car parking spaces to be designated as short-stay, therefore increasing turnover.

They also thought better signposting would ease congestion by reducing the number of circulating vehicles.

Now the council is to talk to land owners and schools to identify those that have spare parking capacity and draw up a signing scheme.

In the longer term it will investigate Saturday-only park-and-ride from Ampress and the possibility of a coach drop-off point with out-of-town parking.

Plans for a multi-decked car park have been dropped.

Council leader Cllr Barry Rickman said the study would be useful to other communities in the forest.