Hampshire & Isle of Wight

Mayflower Theatre slams Southampton parking charge plans

Cars parked at Mayflower Theatre
Image caption The Mayflower Theatre has criticised plans for evening parking charges

Evening parking charges in Southampton could affect the city's cultural life, a theatre boss has claimed.

As part of budget saving plans the city council intends to charge for city centre parking between 18:00 and 08:00 which has been mostly free until now.

Michael Ockwell, chief executive of the Mayflower Theatre, called it "a tax on the night time economy".

The council said the charges could raise up to £500,000 within three years.

It said the revenue would help fund vital services.

Mr Ockwell said the proposals would put "barriers" to people coming to the city centre at night, at a time when the city is bidding to become UK City of Culture in 2017.

The 2,300-seat theatre in the city's "cultural quarter" regularly hosts West End touring productions.

"We know London is our competition and we need to make a trip to Southampton as appealing as possible.

"We applaud the great vision of the City of the Culture bid. Southampton could be building itself as the city for entertainment in this region.

"We need to give people opportunities to come here and not reasons to stay away," he added.

In its proposals, which are currently out to public consultation, Southampton City Council said there had been increasing demand for parking as a result of the rapid growth in the city centre population over recent years.

'Vulnerable services'

In February, the Labour-controlled authority approved cuts of £16m for 2013/14.

Image caption Southampton City Council's Asa Thorpe said the parking charges were "modest"

Cabinet member for environment and transport Asa Thorpe said the proposed charges were "modest".

"We have had a considerable cut in our government funding so we have to address our budget gap.

"This will generate considerable amounts of money so we can protect our most vulnerable services," he said.

Southampton Chamber of Commerce echoed the theatre's criticism of the plans.

Chief executive Jimmy Chestnutt said: "We understand the pressures on the local economy but it's a move that will damage the night time economy and the changes will be counterproductive."

Following the consultation, the council said the charges would be introduced over the next few months and their impact would be monitored.

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