A public outcry over car parking charges in St Albans Westminster Lodge Leisure Centre has prompted the council to review its policy. 

At a full council meeting last night Labour Councillor Roma Mills said "widespread public dissatisfaction" with the reduction of the free parking period at the sports centre from three hours to two hours had impacted a number of local groups. 

A working party to review the reduction for a meeting in October will now be established after 27 councillors voted in favour of the motion, while 26 councillors voted against it. 

Councillor Mills said there had been "continued pressure" from local groups including Abbey View Golf Club, Mental health recovery group, Abbey Theatre and residents who attend Cathedral 

She said: "A lot of people contacted me about this saying this doesn’t feel comfortable to us. 

 "We need to find some way to ensure older people on lower incomes can enjoy the leisure facilities at Westminster Lodge and Verulamium without being penalised."

Conservative Councillor Beric Read said he understood how it affected members but it was a difficult balancing act. 

He said: "Westminster car parking changes are functional- they were designed to encourage a larger turnover of users. 

"The reason for that was that previously, the car park was full. We had over a 100 per cent capacity, at times there were queues in the access road and cars were circulating. 

"It is really about managing the car park and that is a balancing act. 

"Do we encourage people to linger or do we encourage people to turnover so that more people can actually use the car park and the facilities and that is the difficult decision."

However during the debate Liberal Democrat leader Councillor Chris White said "this was not a good idea in the first place." 

While colleague Councillor Rob Prowse said: "We are trying to encourage people to play sport and that means they will need more time than they currently have. 

"What we have done is daft. It doesn’t work. Let’s go back to where we was at Westminster Lodge. "

Councillor Aislinn Lee continued: "This is our flagship leisure facility- it cost an awful lot of money to build. 

"You make your money from the ancillary bits near the pool, but these are empty at the moment because people are absolutely stuffed by the car parking charges. 

"It’s been a public outcry. The word on everyone’s lips during elections was Westminster Lodge parking charges. "

"All this is doing is grabbing money, " added Councillor Tom Clegg.