The decision to end free parking ‘without warning’ in Tilehurst has been described as a ‘new low’ for Reading’s Labour-run council by opposing politicians.

Reading Borough Council previously offered 30 minutes of free parking in Recreation Road and Dunstall Close – a rule which had been in place for years.

Shoppers have described the car parks as a handy stopping place for nearby shops and takeaways in School Road.

Dunstall Close is in walking of Tilehurst Triangle, which is home to a number of businesses.

The end of free 30 minute weekday stays at both car parks has been met with dismay by neighbours, and local opposing politicians who claim the decision was made by the Labour administration’s ‘portfolio holder’ for transport.

Councillor Meri O’Connell (Liberal Democrats, Tilehurst) said: “Labour have reached a new low with this one.

“The free half-hour window was a hard-fought win for the Lib Dems back when I first started out on the council twelve years ago.

“Since then, local businesses have told us it’s been a lifeline that’s helped keep the village centre thriving.

Reading Chronicle: Ricky Duveen, Meri O'Connell and Peter Beard at the Dunstall Close car park in Tilehurst back in 2012 when the free parking for 30 minutes was introduced. Credit: Reading Liberal DemocratsRicky Duveen, Meri O'Connell and Peter Beard at the Dunstall Close car park in Tilehurst back in 2012 when the free parking for 30 minutes was introduced. Credit: Reading Liberal Democrats

“This latest change comes just as footfall is picking up again after the double whammy of Covid-19 and the closure of all Tilehurst’s banks and building societies.  It’s a hammer blow to local businesses and our community as a whole.

“For this to be done without any vote or even the courtesy of discussing with local councillors, is an absolute disgrace.

“I assume they knew we’d oppose it, which is why they snuck it in behind closed doors.

“We’re glad to see the free half hour is still there on weekends, but this awful decision needs to be reversed and the discussion needs to be had.

“Tilehurst residents deserve better than this, and frankly, we know Labour can do better.

“We’ve been fighting for a fair deal for Tilehurst for many a long year now – and we’ve won on this before.

“Labour clearly think there’s a case for this change: they should have the courage of their convictions and put it to residents and councillors, rather than hiding behind bureaucracy.

“I hope everyone affected by this change signs our petition to overturn it.”

The Lib Dems and Conservatives have both launched petitions calling for the decision to be reversed.

READ MORE: Neighbours call on council to reverse decision to end free short stay parking in Tilehurst

You can see the Lib Dem petition on their website and the one started by cllr Raj Singh (Conservative, Kentwood) and Nick Fudge, the Tory candidate for Kentwood on

In response, a council spokesperson said: “While we appreciate increases in car parking charges are never welcome, the decision was made in the context of the council freezing its parking fees since the period of the Covid pandemic.

“The cost of providing car park facilities and maintenance of those car parks has also risen significantly, as a result of rising inflation.

“In some instances, income from council car parks does not cover the costs involved in running them, such as lighting, providing pay and display machines, maintaining surfaces, re-lining etc.

“Set against the backdrop of the increased costs of providing services, we could not maintain and improve car park facilities without further investment.

“The revised charges were introduced on January 1 after they were advertised in the press, on the council website and on notices in the car parks, in line with the statutory process.”

Council-owned car parks made a net surplus of £1,599,175 in 2022/23.