Residents in an impoverished area have been charged £150 a month to park their cars after doing so for free for years with no warning, residents have said.
The car park on Totland Close in Farnborough, Hampshire, provides spaces for the 200 families who live in the nearby block of flats.
Over the last few days, signs have been installed introducing the parking charges which amount to £150 per month.
Sam Trowsdale, 27, has lived in the area for 21 years and said he was shocked to see the parking charges be introduced.
He told HampshireLive: "We received no letter from the council, the estate manager didn't even know about it and now they're just going to enforce the parking fees on the residential car park.
"It's £150 per month and the majority of people who live here are on benefits already, they live on the breadline, so they can barely afford rent, never mind paying to park as well."
Some residents are considering parking on the patch of grass opposite the car park to avoid the fees, but Trowsdale said he's not sure what he'll do.
He added: "I'm undecided, I'm not sure I can afford to pay £150 per month for parking so I'll just have to see what happens."
Christine Guinness, a Rushmoor Borough councillor for Cherrywood, described the move to introduce parking charges as "disgusting".
Elected in 2019, Cllr Guinness says she has been fighting parking charges on council estates in her ward for the last two years.
She said: "I'm totally against it, who can afford £150 to park their car? It's absolutely disgraceful and ridiculous.
"We're talking Totland, which is one of the most deprived areas in my ward. We're not talking scroungers here, we're talking about people who can't work or they've been furloughed.
"Some of these residents have lived here for 20 to 30 years and that parking has always been here. This area doesn't have enough parking and to suddenly throw an extra 200 cars out onto the streets that are already crammed is ridiculous.
"Where are they meant to go? Where are they meant to park? How are they supposed to pay £150?"
This is not the first time parking fees have been introduced at the site.
In 2019, parking charges were introduced but after negotiations the private company, who owns the land, decided to suspend the charges awaiting further negotiation with VIVID, the housing association which owns the homes near the car park.
Other areas, such as Caswell Close and Fairfax Road, did not avoid the charges and residents have had to pay for parking for two years.
Watch: Universal Credit: Families seven times more likely to face a crisis paying bills and debts
Cllr Guinness said some of her residents are dealing with debt up to £2,500 due to the parking fines.
Jonathan Cowie, chief operating officer at VIVID, said: "It’s really disappointing to hear parking charges have been introduced at Totland Close particularly as the owners did not provide prior notice to us nor our customers.
"I understand how worrying this must be for residents who have been using the car park for many years. Although we do not have control over the land and its use, we’ve tried talking to the owners on our customers behalf to persuade them against this decision but unfortunately, they are not prepared to negotiate.
“Although parking allocation is not part of our customers’ tenancy agreement, we’ve explored the possibility of local residents using other areas of land for parking, but there is currently nothing suitable in the area."
Quest Estates, who act on behalf of the private property investment company which owns the site, said that VIVID have been aware of the charges since 2019.
The car park used to be owned by the Rushmoor Borough Council, but was sold in 2016 to Hampshire Garages, and it is now owned by a private company.
A spokesperson from Quest said the parking charges were suspended in 2019 to allow time for discussions about whether VIVID would lease the land.
This is something that VIVID declined, according to Quest. The parking charges were then further postponed due to the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
The cost of the parking has been based on recommendations from Parking Eye, which runs the app residents need to pay. Quest say they have no 'obligation' to discuss charging levels with tenants.
Rushmoor Borough Council have also been approached for comment.