COUNCIL bosses today defended a controversial move to charge business owners but not residents an annual fee for parking permits.
Traders near Sunderland Royal Hospital, in Kayll Road, are being asked to pay the new charge under measures introduced this year.
Plans have long been mooted to help ease the “torment” faced by those living near the site, with hospital staff and visitors using streets nearby to park and avoid charges.
Now, following the implementation the Residents’ Parking Scheme, new restrictions have been put in place.
However, business bosses fear trade will be affected when restrictions such as double yellow lines are brought in and say the £50 annual permit, which residents escape, is unfair.
Under the system, householders are not charged for the first vehicle at their address, although the fee for each additional vehicle rises in increments of £20.
George Fortune, who owns Homestyle Upholstery, in Kayll Road, said: “Times are tough as it is for businesses.
“I just don’t see how someone living nearby, who may be making more than us in their own job, is not charged for their permit just because they don’t own a business.
“It’s not like we’re taking up more room with our vehicles.”
Ray Peggie, who runs Ell’s Kitchen, in nearby Whitehall Terrace, said: “It just seems unfair that we are being charged and they aren’t.
“I don’t know what their reasoning is behind it. It seems like we’re being targeted by the council and there’s no guarantee this charge won’t increase in the future.”
Restrictions are lifted at certain times to offer more areas for visitors to park in and the hospital is in the process of creating a multi-storey car park at the Kayll Road end of the site.
Councillor James Blackburn, Portfolio Holder for City Services at Sunderland City Council, said: “The charges are cost neutral, covering the administration and are in line with similar parking schemes that have been introduced in other areas. Residents and business are always welcome to discuss their requirements with the council.
“From December 1, 2013, we have had 512 requests for residents permits and 27 requests for business permits for the current year, January, 2014, to December, 2014.”