THE decision to change parking charges in car parks across Dorset, including sites in Shaftesbury, Gillingham, Sturminster Newton and Sherborne, has been met with backlash from town councillors.

Announced last month by Dorset Council, from early next year drivers using any council-operated car park will be charged for parking 8am to 8pm, Monday to Sunday.

This extends the chargeable period by two hours in most areas and introduces paying to park on Sundays.

The authority is also currently asking Dorset residents for their views on expanding a virtual permit scheme across the county, which already operates in areas in the western region.

Councils at a local level however do not agree with the upcoming changes, resulting in letters being written voicing concerns.

Heard during the Shaftesbury Town Council meeting Tuesday night, mayor Andy Hollingshead said the county council “must accept” town councils “have much more of a say as district councils no longer exist”.

He said: “I felt that we had to say something as town council – for me I think the key issues here are total absence of consultation and dialogue between Dorset Council and the town council, or any of the town councils as I can gather, so therefore a decision has been made [without any] understanding of the impact on businesses, residents, local volunteers and tourists.

"I consider this to be a hugely disappointing frustration of how a unitary authority should not engage with local town and parish councils. It is not an understatement that this higher candid approach can only weaken our future relationship.”

It was supported unanimously that the clerk writes a letter to Dorset Council “setting out concerns articulated”.

In response to parking charges Gillingham councillors are also writing to the county council, after members raised concerns that it would be “detrimental to the economy” during a General Purposes committee meeting Monday night.

Members will also be requesting free parking on December 4, 5, 11, 12 and 19.

At the time of the parking announcement, Dorset Cllr Ray Bryan, portfolio holder for highways, travel and environment, said the change in parking enabled “a more consistent approach” after a £2million loss from car parks this year.

He added: "As a council in a challenging financial position, we are trying to achieve a delicate balance of maximising income from our car parks while ensuring residents and visitors will still choose to support our high streets, beaches and attractions.”

“While we were looking at these charges before the pandemic hit, it is more important than ever to make these changes now.

"Through national lockdown measures, people self-isolating and temporary free parking schemes, we have lost around £2m from our car parks so far this year at a time when we need the money most.”