MOTORISTS will have to pay to park at Thornhill and Water Eaton park and rides after councillors yesterday overruled dozens of objections.

Oxfordshire County Council cabinet approved plans to charge £3 per day for parking at Thornhill and Water Eaton, a move that could earn the council £150,000 a year.

The charges should come into effect within weeks.

The decision came despite the fact many of the 111 people who responded to a consultation on the change were against the idea.

Under the plans, motorists will be able to park for up to 11 hours for free, but will pay £3 per day after that, up to a maximum of 72 hours.

The charges are likely to hit commuters into London, many of whom use the car park to catch the Oxford Tube and X90 coach services into the capital.

But speaking at the meeting, transport cabinet member Rodney Rose said the emphasis had to be on reducing congestion in Oxford, not offering London-bound commuters an easy life.

He said: “We have to remember why the park and rides are there in the first place.

“The council tax payers of Oxford paid for them to reduce traffic in the city.”

Liberal Democrat and Labour councillors backed the charges, but both groups said they didn’t go far enough.

Councillor Alan Armitage said: “The Lib Dem group remains in favour of charging every user of the Thornhill park and ride. For many years we have supported free use of all five park and rides around Oxford, but we were forced a couple of years ago to the realisation that with the magnitude of the squeeze the county council is now suffering, this subsidy of car users is no longer appropriate or affordable.”

It comes after Oxford City Council started charging users of Redbridge, Seacourt and Pear Tree park and ride schemes £1.50 a day for parking last October.

Fellow Lib Dem councillor Anne Purse raised concerns that the £100 fine proposed for those who stay for more than 72 hours would not be enough to put off holidaymakers.

She said: “This fine for staying more than 72 hours, if you’re going on holiday for two weeks that’s really not a bad charge for parking.”

Labour leader Liz Brighouse said the council should consider lengthening its 72-hour limit and “have sympathy” for drivers from neighbouring areas such as Gloucestershire.

She said: “A lot of people come along the A40 from Cheltenham believing they can park to go to the airport and then arrive and find they can’t stay more than 72 hours.”

The news comes after plans were announced to add an additional 460 spaces to take the capacity of Thornhill to around 950 after complaints the car park is often full before 8am.

Work is due to start within the next few months.

Mr Rose said: “Of course I’d like to get a couple of hundred pounds off people to park there to go to the airport, but first we have to go back to basics and make sure it is providing enough spaces for travelling into the city.”

Objectors to the plans raised several concerns in their feedback to the council.

Some said 11 hours of free parking was not long enough for university or hospital workers, and London commuters asked why they were being discriminated against.

Nearby residents also raised concerns about their streets becoming clogged up with cars if drivers decided to seek parking elsewhere rather than paying the fees.

The plans were approved unanimously.

Work costing £200,000 to implement the changes is expected to be completed in November.

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