PARKING charges are set to rise in Colchester town centre as part of a new strategy to ease congestion and improve air quality.

Colchester Council is set to consider its updated parking strategy at a Cabinet meeting on Monday.

The authority’s aim of achieving carbon neutrality by 2030 lies at the heart of the plan although motives also include boosting faltering revenue and reducing congestion.

A report accompanying the strategy said the council’s car parks generate £3.6 million per year, but the impact of the coronavirus pandemic is set to reduce this sum by around £1.8 million this year.

Under the council’s plans, town centre residents applying for parking permits would face higher charges if their vehicle is less environmentally-friendly.

Those who park in council-owned car parks at peak times could face a higher charge, while higher charges may be put in place at car parks in “high density areas”.

The report highlights how the council wishes to draw long-stay parking away from the town centre and encourage the use of public transport, the park and ride service and out-of-town car parks.

The council will seek to control charges at private car parks in the town centre, either through acquiring them outright or through licensing.

It is also looking to take over management of the park and ride, in order to make the service a more attractive option.

Under a proposed workplace parking levy, businesses will face additional charges based on the number of parking spaces provided for employees.

Where blue badge holders once received three hours of free parking in council car parks, under the new strategy they could now be expected to pay.

Within the strategy, the council said it is “mindful” that charged-for parking removes the financial incentive for those ineligible for a badge to use or acquire one.

“This improves availability of the disabled bays provided for those with real access needs,” it reads.

The council is looking to make sure drivers can make use of apps and automatic payment methods, making payment easier and allowing for people to take advantage of parking charge rebates offered by retailers.

At St John’s, St Mary’s and Priory Street car parks, up to one hour of parking is set to rise from £1.80 to £2.10.

For up to two hours, the price will be £3.20, up from £2.70.

Up to three hours will cost £3.80, up from £3.30.

Up to four hours of parking will cost £4, up from £3.50.

Prices will remain the same at Middleborough, Rowan House, Sheepen Road and Britannia car parks.

Saturday prices will remain the same at the council’s car parks.

A spokesman for Colchester’s Business Improvement District said it feared the workplace parking levy could be seen as another tax on businesses while customers may be encouraged to make longer journeys to out-of-town shopping centre.

He said: “At a time where our town centre is on its knees, we plead for Colchester Council and partners to help re-build and cement the foundations to make our town centre a destination that our residents and visitors want to visit.

“We believe that their intentions are good and throughout the pandemic, our partnership work has been better than ever before, but we need a priority to be made on how we attract consumers into the town.

“If our consumers see parking as a barrier, we simply lose out to places like Tollgate, Lakeside and places further afield.

“There is a variety of barriers within this parking strategy that prevent this aim from being achieved.”

Mike Lilley, Colchester councillor responsible for public safety, said: “We did declare a climate change emergency and it is time to change things so we can help the climate around us.

“These changes are to do with air quality in the town centre and congestion."