A “Trojan horse full of traffic wardens” could soon be unleashed on three North Somerset towns, a councillor has warned.

North Somerset Council is considering ending free parking in council car parks and some on-street locations in Clevedon, Nailsea, and Portishead in 2025. The council’s executive voted on Wednesday February 7 to launch a six-week consultation on the proposals for members of the public to have their say.

Executive member for highways and transport Hannah Young told the meeting: “We have to make difficult decisions about the services that the council can and chooses to provide free to our communities, and those that we ask only those people who use them to pay for.”

She added: “Providing parking has a cost. Currently, across the district, the council has to pay business rates for car parks, maintenance for health and safety, and drainage works. And those costs are borne by all taxpayers currently whether they use car parks or not.”

The parking strategy set to go out for consultation would also include a proposal for a new “shopper’s permit” at a cost of around £1 a week which would allow people to park in some locations for two hours without having to pay. Ms Young insisted: “We are looking to be as open as possible about how we achieve the objectives with the strategy and for this to be a genuine consultation and engagement exercise.”

But Long Ashton councillor Ash Cartman warned: “I think the fear of many residents and myself is that this is not a consultation. It’s a notification, a notification of charges.

“It’s not a parking strategy, its a Trojan horse full of traffic wardens waiting to swan round streets imposing fines on people. Now that may not be true but it is what people fear.”

He added that in Nailsea there were other free car parks available, and bringing in charges for ones run by the council would not work.

Clevedon West councillor Luke Smith warned that the plan to charge for on-street parking would “charge people to use the public realm or park outside their own homes.” He added: “Is cashless really the way forward when signal can be very patchy across the district?”

Portishead South councillor Peter Burden said that the towns set to be hit by parking charges were different to Weston-super-Mare. He said: “ I do think we need to find a way of keeping our high streets viable and I think that can only be done by free short-term parking.”

Roger Whitfield, who sits on the council executive and represents Portishead East, said he understood the plans were unpopular in the north of the district, but insisted: “In the past there’s been a lot of allegations of things going out to consultation at the final stage after all the decisions have been made and this isn’t the case here. This is an early consultation.”

Ms Young added that the charges could not be brought in at some car parks, or brought in at different locations depending on the outcome of the consultation. But she said: “We all know the financial situation we face and if we were to remove all the sites we would not be able to balance our budget at the end of the day.”

Currently, the strategy proposes that charges would apply between 9am and 5pm or 6pm. In Nailsea, charges could be introduced for Clevedon Road car park, Station Road car park, and on-street parking in the town centre. Meanwhile in Portishead, Roath Road car park, on-street locations in the town centre, and the Lake Grounds could all become paid parking.

In Clevedon, charges could be introduced in the Marson Road, Great Western Road East, and Great Western Road West car parks, as well as on street in the town centre, around the Triangle, on Hill Road, and on the seafront on Elton Road and Old Church Road (east). No parking charges are proposed on The Beach, after Mr Smith and fellow Clevedon councillor Michael Pryke wrote to the council urging them to drop plans to charge for parking there.

The council executive unanimously voted to approve sending the plans out for consultation. The six-week consultation is set to begin in March. Charges could be implemented in January 2025.