By David Spereall, local democracy reporter
Leeds City Council has been told that forcing drivers to pay for parking through an app would “discriminate” against sections of the local public.
The cash-strapped local authority is considering bringing in parking charges of around 40p-an-hour at green spaces across the city, although it insists no final decision has been made.
However, should fees be introduced, the council has indicated the system would be cashless, with drivers expected to pay with their mobile phone.
Golden Acre Park in Bramhope, Kirkstall Abbey, Middleton Park, Otley Chevin Park, Roundhay Park and Temple Newsam are among the large areas of parkland where free parking for the city’s residents could end.
WLD understands parking charges in West Leeds could be implemented at Armley Park, Bramley Falls Wood, Farnley Hall Park, New Wortley Rec, Queens Park in Pudsey, Gotts Park in Armley, Stanningley Park and Western Flatts Park in Wortley.
Conservative councillor Barry Anderson, who attacked the proposal a whole, said this could exclude people who are uncomfortable with technology from parks.
The overall idea has proved controversial since the Labour-run council outlined further details around the plan earlier this month, which would affect around 30 sites across Leeds.
The city’s Liberal Democrats have branded it a “fresh air tax”, but West Yorkshire’s mayor Tracy Brabin has backed the idea, citing environmental benefits and swinging funding cuts from central government.
But Councillor Anderson, whose Adel and Wharfedale ward includes Golden Acre Park, said: “I am appalled at this proposal by the ruling administration.
“It is unnecessary, it hits the most vulnerable residents the most, it takes away the enjoyment of visiting our beautiful parks and it will cause untold problems on the roads surrounding the parks as people seek to find somewhere to park without having to pay.
“The council are also discriminating against those who are not comfortable using technology as the only way to pay is by mobile phone which not everyone has access to; or knows how to use.”
The local authority has said the charges, which would be brought in gradually over the course of the next year if given the green light next month, would bring in nearly £700,000 over a 12-month period.
It also says the money will be used to maintain the parks themselves and the cost of enforcing the charges has been built into the plans.
But Councillor Anderson said: “I do not believe that this will save the council any money in the long run as the cost of administering this scheme will negate any savings.
“The cost of bringing the car parks within the parks up to standard will be enormous, plus the costs of installing the equipment to monitor the parking.”
In response, a spokesperson for the council said: “We understand how valuable our city’s parks are to the people of Leeds, and ensuring accessibility for people of all ages is an important part of that.
“However the unprecedented budget pressures faced by the council have meant we have had to look at options we wouldn’t usually consider.
“Should this proposal progress, a variety of payment options for car park users would be available. However, no decisions have yet been made and any proposal that comes forward will be subject to consultation.”