PARKING charges in Winsford has moved a step closer after a borough-wide strategy was approved.

Cheshire West and Chester Council cabinet members were asked today to approve the document, which sets out the council’s parking strategy across the borough over the next 15 years.

The only recommendation from the report – which was produced by Mott MacDonald – that was not backed by the council was a proposal to charge blue badge holders for parking.

It was revealed at the meeting that the council has seen a shortfall of £335 million from central government since 2010, until 2020.

Cllr Paul Dolan, cabinet member for adult social care, said the council had a ‘moral decision to make’ in light of the huge strain now placed on children and adult care services.

“It would be wholly irresponsible not to look at other means to meet these services,” he said.

The report states that parking charges in the town won’t be introduced until the £200 million regeneration of the town centre is complete.

Speaking in the public speakers section, Cllr Michael Baynham, CWAC councillor for Winsford Over and Verdin, lamented the lack of developments surrounding the regeneration.

Cllr Baynham said: “Winsford has been promised £200 million investment for a new shopping centre.

“There has been no major developments, no announcement, there has been no plans made available, no news."

Cllr Baynham said Winsford residents are forced to go to Northwich because of a lack of facilities in Winsford.

He said that they will, in effect, be taxed for doing so when charges are introduced in Northwich, which is expected to come sooner.

He also said this will send out a clear message to would-be developers who may be thinking about investing in Winsford.

Cllr Baynham said: “If the cabinet is going to introduce car parking charges in Northwich, what does that say to developers wanting to come to Winsford?

“It says, set up your business here and we will start charging for parking.

“It already sends out a really bad signal to developers.”

He suggested that parking charges should not be introduced in Winsford until 95 per cent of the units in the regenerated Winsford Cross Shopping Centre were filled.

Cllr Brian Clarke, cabinet member for economic development and Infrastructure, said the introduction of parking charges will ‘not ruin the town’.

He said: “What has been ruining it is a lack of investment in the shopping centre.

"We are addressing that.”

Cllr Clarke, ward member for Winsford Wharton, said that as many of the car parks in Winsford are privately owned, the council would have to purchase new land or extend the land they currently own.

He also said the £200 million investment programme was ‘more than just the shopping centre’.

Cllr Karen Shore, cabinet member for environment, has overseen the parking strategy and said it was not about making money, but about ‘making best use of our assets against backdrop of austerity’.

“We can no longer afford to subsidise car parking when we have some very vulnerable residents that we have a statutory duty to care for,” she said.

Cllr Shore said that detailed economic and financial reports will be developed alongside the action plans, which will be produced closer to the times of implementation.

She said further consultations will also take place.