FURY has erupted as parking charges at Airedale Hospital are to rocket – in some cases more than doubling.
One former board member has slammed the whopping increase as disgraceful.
And there are fears the move could lead to more traffic turmoil on streets neighbouring the Steeton site, as people seek alternative places to park.
Airedale NHS Foundation Trust said this week that charges would increase from next Tuesday (Apr 18), when a new barrier system also goes live.
Parking for the first 20 minutes will remain free.
But the fee for up to two hours rises from £2.50 to £3, for two to four hours from £3 to £5, and for up to 24 hours from £3.50 to a whacking £8.
"When I served on the hospital board I was set against any parking charges and that remains my view," said Councillor Zafar Ali, who represents Keighley Central ward on Bradford Council.
"To effectively charge people for visiting loved ones or to attend important medical appointments is disgraceful.
"I am shocked at this increase, which is going to hit people hard."
Councillor David Mullen, who chairs Steeton-with-Eastburn Parish Council, said the rise was "ridiculous".
"A lot of people need at least two hours when they visit the hospital – you can be sat waiting that time for your appointment," he said.
"But it's not just the parking charges that are an issue.
"The new barriers mean it's not going to be as easy to come and go from the site.
"I hope I'm proved wrong, but I fear that more people will simply leave their cars elsewhere in the village.
"What we need is an integrated transport policy, with buses being routed via the hospital and the railway station. That is an objective in our Neighbourhood Plan."
Craven-ward district councillor Adrian Naylor, who is also a member of Silsden Town Council, says parking capacity is the major problem at the site which needs addressing.
"Demand exceeds supply," he added.
"The majority of people travel by car to the hospital and this appears to be an attempt to price some of them out.
"The difficulty for anyone visiting the hospital for an appointment is that you simply don't know how long you'll need."
Hospital bosses say parking charges have not increased for ten years and that the rise will bring the trust into line with others across West Yorkshire.
"I understand that increasing parking charges is never a popular message," said David Moss, the trust's assistant director of estates and facilities.
"We have managed to hold prices for ten years but must now increase them.
"The revenue from car parking is reinvested in patient services, resurfacing and maintaining the car park estate – and in upgrading our CCTV and security, making parking safer for patients, visitors and staff.
"We know that parking is a perennial issue at Airedale and we have recently installed a new barrier-controlled system, to make it easier for our patients and visitors to park closer to the hospital.
"These car parks are pay-on-exit which means that patients and visitors don't have to worry about going back to their car to top up their parking, or paying a higher charge because they're not sure how long they'll be. The new machines take card payments, as well as the new £1 coins and £5 notes."
Blue-badge holders will continue to receive free parking and all spaces outside the outpatients' department will be for badge holders only.
Various concessionary permits and exemptions will also still be available for certain categories of patient – visit airedale-trust.nhs.uk/contact-us/parking for details.
Mr Moss added that it was planned to provide an extra 50 to 100 parking places in the coming year and that the trust was working with Transdev to look at increasing the frequency of buses to the hospital site.