DRIVERS will have to pay to park in council-owned car parks across Wyre Forest next month - but NHS and social care staff will still be able to park for free if they display a pass.

Wyre Forest District Council has announced it is reinstating its car parking charges from Monday, June 1, after suspending fees on March 27 to support key workers during the coronavirus pandemic.

From the start of June, car parking machines will not be in use in a bid to stop the spread of coronavirus, so people using the car parks will either have to pay by mobile phone or by purchasing a season ticket online.

In the last week, the council says it has seen an increase in the number of people using its car parks since the government eased lockdown restrictions last Wednesday.

The council says many people are visiting town centres for leisure purposes, either by sitting to enjoy the fresh air, picnicking, sunbathing and angling - in line with more relaxed government guidelines which allow people to travel for day trips.

The impact has been particularly noticeable in Bewdley and Stourport, where visitors from outside the district are returning in numbers, despite the fact that many facilities such as restaurants, pubs and even public toilets remain closed.

Wyre Forest Council says the influx of visitors is putting greater demand on council services such as clearing litter and emptying bins.

Cabinet member for operational services Councillor John Thomas said: “We have waived all parking fees for two months but we feel that, with the gradual easing of lockdown, now is the appropriate time for them to be reintroduced.

“The income from car parking makes an important contribution to the council’s overall financial position and we cannot continue to offer free parking, especially as the Government has not given a guarantee that it will cover all losses faced by councils.

“However, we recognise the efforts and contribution that frontline NHS and social care workers continue to make in the fight against Covid-19 and that’s why they will continue to be exempt from charges if they are on duty and display the pass provided by their employer.

“We know that some residents and visitors prefer to pay for parking using cash. But that just cannot happen at this time.

"It would simply not be safe to allow machines to be used at this time. We want to minimise the risk for residents and visitors so that they don’t have to touch the surfaces other people have touched and we also want to avoid them queuing in close quarters.”

Officers will be enforcing parking charges from June 1. On duty NHS or social care staff will need to display a pass from their employers to enjoy free parking.

Information on how to pay by telephone or app on your mobile phone is available from the council’s website - wyreforestdc.gov.uk/streets-and-parking/parking/cashless-parking.

The simplest way is to download the Just Park app, but this is not compulsory.

Alternatively, regular users could consider buying a season ticket which can be paid for by a Just Park account on its website or through the app.

More information on ticket prices, including how to apply online, can be found at wyreforestdc.gov.uk/streets-and-parking/parking/season-tickets.

The council is honouring its pledge to extend existing season tickets by three months without charge. Season ticket holders are asked to contact Just Park about their expiry date at justpark.com.