Car parking charges at Airedale Hospital are to double.

And it is not only visitors who will have to fork out extra cash to see their sick loved ones, staff will also be hit with an increase in their parking permit charges.

At a meeting on Wednesday, Airedale NHS Trust bosses said the increases were necessary to generate more funds to improve security measures on the site. They would also ensure that car parking and security would become a self-sufficient service rather than having to dip into the trust's capital pot.

In 2004/5 car park charges raised £333,000 for the trust -- £298,000 of which went back into the car parks and security service at the Steeton hospital.

The increases are expected to raise £90,000 and £40,000 will be spent on a two-year contract with contractors employing 24-hour car park security staff and CCTV cameras.

Doug Farrow, director of planning and performance, said the extra funds would make up for capital funds spent on projects like the re-siting of the helicopter pad.

He said: "I understand how emotive a thing like this can be, but we are looking at it as a return on our assets and a return on our capital." The rises are the first increases implemented by the hospital since November 2002.

From November 1 visitors will have to pay £2 to park for up to two hours, £2.50 for two to four hours and £3 for over four hours -- all rises of at least £1. Staff will face rises in line with pay increases. Full-time staff will pay an extra £4 on their annual parking permit of £60 and part-time staff will have to pay £32 -- a £2 rise.

Mr Farrow said staff had not been charged much more as it could cause a rift in staff and management relations. "It's important at this time of change within the trust that we take staff with us," he said.

He added: "There is no way of hiding the fact from the public that this is quite a significant increase. But £90,000 will be a significant contribution to our recovery plan."

Chief executive Adam Cairns said the rise should not have much impact on regular visitors to the site as exemptions and concessions would still apply to people, such as those undergoing daily treatment, visitors of terminally ill patients, critical patients and vehicles with a blue disabled badge.

He added: "The increase will only really affect periodic, one-off visitors to the site so the impact will actually be very small."

Residents from a neighbouring estate, where some staff park their cars to avoid the hospital's car park charges, said the rises would only aggravate the problem.

SMOKERS taking a quick drag outside the doors of Airedale Hospital will soon be a thing of the past.

Bosses at Airedale are to ban smoking in the hospital grounds.

It is already not permitted inside the building. Management has agreed to make the whole site smoke-free and is drawing up a draft action policy.

It is expected to be approved by the Airedale NHS Trust Board when it meets in December. The recommendation was accepted at Wednesday's meeting following a workshop with staff, managers, volunteers, and patient and union representatives