Neighbours angry over parking fees

Residents Alan Jarvis (front) with Jean Jarvis, Geoff Docherty and Brian Heslop in the almost empty car park for the City Centre Flats, which are too expensive for everybody to use.
Residents Alan Jarvis (front) with Jean Jarvis, Geoff Docherty and Brian Heslop in the almost empty car park for the City Centre Flats, which are too expensive for everybody to use.
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TOWER block residents are calling for “fairer treatment” over parking charges.

Pensioners living in Sunderland’s city-centre flats – Astral, Solar and Planet House – feel a £620 annual charge levied by Sunderland City Council to park on-site is too costly.

Former club promoter Geoff Docherty, who has lived in Astral House for more than 30 years, is angry that council staff pay reduced parking charges at the civic centre car park, when residents must pay to park near their homes.

He said: “The civic centre staff can park for £120 a year in their car park. We just want to be on a par with them.

“I park in Azalea Terrace North and if I’m carrying shopping and it’s raining, I’m soaked by the time I get home. It’s a scandal.

“Some of the staff in The Bridges get free parking, which I don’t begrudge them, as I’m a working-class lad too.

“I’d just like to see the residents get fairer treatment.”

Fed-up residents claim about only 10 of 54 spaces in the tower blocks’ Central car park are being regularly used – because people can’t afford the cost of an annual parking permit, which is reduced to £545 a year if paid in a lump sum.

Mr and Mrs Jarvis opted to pay this, as they were worried about leaving their car on the streets of Sunderland.

Jean Jarvis, 68, a former nurse at Cherry Knowle Hospital, added: “Having a new car, we did not want to park on the streets.

“When we moved here in the early 70s, it was about £3 a week to park with the council.”

Husband Alan, 78, who worked at Pyrex before retiring, said: “The only other option is parking on the street, which is unsafe, given the vandalism when the pubs and nightclubs are kicking out.”

But retired civil servant Brian Heslop, 65, decided not to splash out on a permit.

He said: “It is a bit of a struggle finding a space and we have to walk quite a way. I think it would be fair if we paid half what we do now.”

Non-residents can also apply for parking permits, at a cost of more than £1,000 a year.

Council leader Paul Watson said: “Working with Gentoo, who own and operate Astral, Solar and Planet Houses, we have addressed the issue of parking with their residents on a number of occasions to address their concerns wherever possible.

“The cost of parking permits for city-centre residents has remained the same since they were introduced in 2006, at £155 per quarter or £545 per annum.”

Coun Watson added: “People who live in Solar, Astral and Planet House are all eligible to purchase a permit that gives them exclusive parking rights at the Central car park, which has electronic gates.

“There are 80 residents who live in Astral House – not all may have vehicles – and there are currently 13 residents who have purchased permits.

“There are a total number of 54 spaces and any spaces not taken up by residents will be offered up for business users.

“In addition the city council has created 28 designated disabled parking spaces in the service areas directly fronting Astral, Solar and Planet House, which was a 86 per cent increase on the number of disabled parking spaces previously provided at this location.

“Under the regulations covering the blue badge scheme this provision is free and hours of use are unlimited to all blue badge holders.

“Residential and staff parking rates and arrangements are not comparable.”

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