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Free parking for key workers scheme comes to an end

From Wednesday 1 July, Dorset Council’s scheme that allows key workers to park for free in Council-run car parks will be coming to an end.

Near the start of the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic and subsequent lockdown, Dorset Council took the decision to suspend parking charges in its car parks across the county.

These charges were reinstated for most people from Monday 15 June, when shops on high streets and town centres across the county opened their doors to the public once again.

The changing definition of what a “key worker” is has left the scheme difficult to enforce, and the re-opening of shops, increased capacity for shopping deliveries and fewer people “shielding” at home means there is less demand for free parking for those who were part of Community Response initiatives.

The scheme was always intended to run until the end of June so, with the further relaxing of travel restrictions and the imminent re-opening of restaurants and cafes, the time is right to return to normal charging practices.

While the car parks provide a much-needed source of funding for the Council, charges also allow for a consistent turn-around of vehicles. This means visitors don’t stay any longer than they need to and frees up spaces for other vehicles that arrive throughout the day.

Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) will use their discretion when dealing with key worker vehicles that may attempt to continue parking for free over the coming days, preferring for warnings and guidance to be issued while word gets around that the scheme has ended.

While ticket machines will accept cash, the Council strongly recommends that contactless payment methods via the Just Park service are used. If you have a mobile phone you can phone, text or use the smartphone app to pay for parking without touching the ticket machine.

Cllr Ray Bryan, Dorset Council Portfolio Holder for Highways, Travel and Environment, told KeeP 106:

“I would like to say a huge thank you to everyone who was able to take advantage of our free parking offer that we put in place over 3 months ago.

Dorset Council will always be grateful to those key workers who supported our communities during the worst of the COVID-19 lockdown period. But with the gradual relaxation of travel restrictions, changed public health guidance and the re-opening of shops, it is now the right time for us to get back to normal in how we charge for the use of our car parks.

CEOs will use their discretion and initially be lenient if any key workers appear to continue parking for free in the immediate future. But this won’t last long, so I recommend everyone re-acquaints themselves with our parking charges sooner rather than later.”

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