Students hit with £20 charge for car parking after complaints of traffic chaos near Staffordshire University
PARKING charges are being brought in at Staffordshire University after complaints about traffic chaos.
Staff and students will have to pay £20-a-year for permits to park at the university's Stoke campus from January.
Any motorist caught without a permit will be fined £70.
It has emerged that the emergency services had threatened to shut down the Stoke sites because ambulances and fire engines faced being blocked by illegally-parked cars.
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It is not yet clear if non-students using the sports facilities out of hours or visitors to the nearby Stoke Rep will be charged to park.
The permits will also be introduced at the university's sites in Stafford and Lichfield.
University director of finance Mark Hattersley said: "During recent years, demand for car parking on our campuses has far exceeded the available spaces.
"The consequences of unlimited demand and the fixed supply of car parking spaces have led some drivers to park on double yellow lines, grassed areas, pavements and inappropriately in disabled spaces without consideration for the safety of others.
"At its most extreme this has resulted in areas of the campus becoming inaccessible to emergency vehicles.
"We have narrowly avoided enforcement action by the emergency services which would have closed the Stoke campus."
The Stoke campus – which includes sites in Leek Road and College Road – currently has 1,048 spaces. But university officials say planning rules mean they cannot build a larger car park.
Members of the Sir Stanley Matthews Sports Centre, who pay a monthly subscription to use the gym, will also need to apply for a permit.
Anyone living within a mile of the two sites will not be allowed to buy a permit. The charges come as students at the nearby City of Stoke-on-Trent Sixth Form College and passengers at Stoke Station are parking at the university to avoid pay-and-display charges elsewhere.
First year student Jess Sharratt, aged 18, of Leek, who studies forensic psychology, said: "I come here an hour early just to give myself enough time to get a space. Sometimes I can drive around for 30 minutes."
Fellow forensic psychology student Kate Wood, aged 20, of Hanley, said: "I'd be late for lectures if I didn't arrive early as the parking is so bad."
First year Amy Jenks, aged 18, of Endon, who studies sports and exercise science, added: "I think it would be unfair to fine people who can't find a space and have to leave their car somewhere as they have no choice."
Keele University already operates a permit system, with pay-and-display machines in areas used by the public.
Students are offered annual permits ranging from £50 to £20 depending on the location of the 2,500 spaces.
University head of security David Gray said: "Parking is a problem across all universities and each one has a limit on how many students can have a permit to park."