VISITORS to three Sheffield parks are due to pay for parking from next week.
It will cost 40p an hour – £2 all day – to leave cars during the day to Millhouses, Hillsborough and Graves Park.
The council says the charges are being introduced as an alternative to cutting back on staff and maintenance, pledging to put the money back into the parks.
It also hopes that drivers will respond by not using neighbouring residential roads to avoid paying the “reasonable” fee, although at least one resident fears more cars will choke side streets.
A critic of the payment machines being installed in Millhouses Park said: “It is pretty clear that many people will simply leave their cars on surrounding streets to avoid the charges adding needlessly to congestion and increasing the dangers of accidents to children.”
The idea of asking visitors to pay to park in Sheffield’s biggest parks emerged a couple of years ago as spending cuts began to bite into the recreation department budget.
Endcliffe Park was on the list before it was dropped on the basis that it is too small to justify the cost of installing meters and monitoring them.
Now the scheme has been firmed up to centre on Millhouses, Hillsborough and Graves, aiming to raise £20,000 in the remaining financial year and £60,000 in a full year.
Car parks at both ends of Hillsborough Park will eventually be covered. While charges are being made at the Penistone Road side, they will be delayed at the car park near the athletics track, which is used by some commuters switching to Supertram, until resurfacing has been completed.
The council says the charges are being introduced reluctantly, as a result of “unprecedented” £1.2m cuts in this year’s parks budget.
Coun Isobel Bowler, cabinet member for culture sport and leisure, said: “After a period of investment in parks in recent years, we are now looking at reductions every year in the amount of money coming to the council, which means we will have less money to spend on our parks in the future.
“We are proud of our parks and are doing everything we can to find the resources to maintain them to a good standard so that visitors can continue to enjoy them. We’ve promised park users that all income raised from charges will be used to directly support maintenance of those parks where charges are introduced.
“Of course, only three parks are affected – Graves, Hillsborough and Millhouses – and we’re confident that visitors will understand the reasons for the charges and support the initiative.
“We also hope that visitors will respect local people and don’t choose to leave their car on neighbouring streets as we believe the charges are reasonably priced and we have tried to keep them affordable.”
Blue badge holders will continue to park free at all times and no charges will apply before 9.30am or after 6.30pm.
Voluntary group the Friends of Millhouses Park hope that drivers will agree that it is worth paying 40p an hour for the attractions of the park but accept that residential parking is likely to increase.”It’s not what we would like to happen but how do you stop it?” asked chair John Brighton.
He added: “The Friends of Millhouses Park recognise that Sheffield City Council is in a difficult position with its budget and has to find new income sources.
“We have been consulted on charges in Millhouses Park and, whilst regretting the need, are pleased the income raised will be used to help offset further budget reductions in the park.
“We hope that visitors will support the initiative and continue to park in the park and not on surrounding streets.”