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Parking Fees a "Slap in the Face" - UPDATED

Saturday 5 February 2011, 18:49
By Western Gazette

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Charges could be introduced in free car parks in south Somerset, sparking fears that town centres could suffer.

Plans to transfer all parking enforcement powers from the police to the local council have moved one step closer in Somerset. If approved, charges are likely to be brought in at Wincanton and Castle Cary, where drivers have been able to park for free for years.

South Somerset District Council has indicated the charges would be necessary to help cover the cost of parking enforcement officers patrolling the streets.

Fees could be brought in at Bruton, Langport, Martock and Somerton at a later date if deemed necessary.

A district council parking strategy drawn up in 2007 indicated that charges would be introduced if a move to civil parking enforcement (CPE) was agreed. Now the district council has supported Somerset County Council's application to the Secretary of State for Transport for such a move.

The county council has already received backing for CPE from Taunton Deane Borough, Sedgemoor and West Somerset district councils and meetings with Mendip District Council will be held early next month.

A county council spokesperson said: "Somerset County Council will be submitting an application to the Department for Transport for civil parking enforcement. We are currently reviewing our programme of dates for when that will happen and are hoping to submit an application soon."

It is set to be a lengthy process, and even if approved, any charges are unlikely to be introduced until at least 2013.

John Smith, chairman of Wincanton Businesses Together, said: "The introduction of parking charges will be a slap in the face to our traders. The vast majority of people in Wincanton would give a resounding no to this crazy plan to introduce a stealth tax on shoppers and businesses. Parking charges will encourage people to stay away from our town centre and move their support to places like Yeovil.

"The district council may pay lip service by offering one hour free parking. But if this plan goes ahead, the free hour will be a simple token gesture to get a foot in the doorway.

"If the district council cares about the future of Wincanton town centre it needs to kill this plan now before the damage is done."

The 2007 strategy revealed it would cost at least £35,000 to introduce charging in Wincanton and Castle Cary, including the expense of installing pay-and-display machines. The cost of enforcement and collection of fines would be even more.

Nick Weeks, Castle Cary Town Council chairman, said: "It is absolute madness. If the charges do come in, it will be a very bad thing for the town centre. It does not make any sort of economical sense and the set up costs themselves are far too high. How can they justify these charges when they are not providing any kind of service?

"Shops and businesses in Castle Cary are struggling as it is and this will only continue to force people to shop at supermarkets instead.

"They need to revisit the whole thing and have a big rethink as it is unlikely to make any money."

The strategy states car parks in Wincanton and Castle Cary would carry charges of 40p for two hours and £1.10 all day. The first hour would remain free in short-stay car parks such as part of Carrington Way in Wincanton and a section of Milbrook Gardens in Castle Cary.

It has also been suggested that the Carrington Way car park could become multi-storey. Despite being highlighted in a retail study as potentially suitable for retail development, the move towards CPE could see it expand as a car park.

Vega Sturgess, strategic director for operations and customer focus at the district council, said: "CPE is the responsibility of the county council which is just asking each district to endorse and support their application to the Secretary of State. SSDC has supported SCC's application for Somerset."

Clare Aparicio of the Langport Area Business Group said: "The debate is whether it is justifiable to charge people to park in some of the smaller outlying districts, when they possibly have a financial outlay to get there already. It would be a great shame to introduce charges to the very small car parks in some of the smaller trading towns. Not only does it impede on the visitor, but it would be detrimental to the small businesses they are hopefully utilising."

Article first published in the Western Gazette


Since this article appeared in the Western Gazette, Wincanton Window has been emailed with the following comments by Dawn Haydon, a communications officer at South Somerset District Council.

"There's a long term strategy, written in 2007, that suggests the option of introducing parking charges in Wincanton and Castle Cary when and if better on-street parking enforcement is brought in but this could well be a long way away and is not definitely happening, and if it does the strategy suggests first hour of parking free with 40p for 2 hours.

"The long term strategy also suggests that if demand requires, we could explore parking charges in other towns.

"BUT THERE ARE NO PROPOSALS to do this at the moment and there is certainly nothing in the budget for next year (to be agreed in February) about introducing any of these charges."


Posts: 1
Parking charges?
Reply #1 on : Mon February 07, 2011, 10:33:37
Do you use your town centre shops and businesses? Is your town centre important to you and your community? In the USA parking in town centres is free because they like to encourage town centre businesses and clients.

Here in the UK we seem to have a built in negative attitude to our town centres. I’m struggling to understand this attitude. My DC is also introducing parking charges. I think they are looking at this as a way to raise much needed cash. They can’t seem to see that this will come with a large price tag. Introducing charges will put a much greater financial pressure on our town centre businesses. Charges will put our residents off visiting their own town centre. It makes supporting the town centre a chore that costs. The end result is a weakened town centre, reduced revenue for the DC, and if left long enough you will see businesses that once thrived being converted to residential property. The town centre will slowly die.

You need to defend your town centre now! Don’t wait till the machines are in. When they’re in they are staying, and parking charges can only go one way. Up! They won’t be taken out. Check with other areas and see how many DC’s have removed machines after installation.

You need to act now. A wise man once said that most bad things happen because good people do nothing. Stand up for your town centre. We are in danger of losing ours. Don’t lose yours.
Nick Colbert
Posts: 1
Communications officer or spin doctor?
Reply #2 on : Mon February 07, 2011, 13:34:39
Dawn Haydon knows there is now a clear strategy in force for the Lib/dem council to introduce car-parking charges in Wincanton and Castle Cary following a "confidential" part of Januarys executive council meeting.

In Councillor Carrolls own words "We have steps A,B,C,D & E before charging can be bought in, we are now on step A."

That confirms the process is underway so the time to fight the proposal to charge us for using our own car parks is now, by the time we are onto step E it will be too late.

Sleuth is spot on, if we do not fight these charges now it will be too late. Potential customers will park free at Morrisons and Lidel, the Co-op will be in a difficult situation. If that goes all the businesses in the surrounding area will suffer, the council will lose the rates from the businesses that close and the government will lose the income tax and national insurance from the employees that will inevitably lose their jobs.

An ill thought out policy caused by short term greed to enable Lib/dem run SSDC to take more money from Wincantons townsfolk to shore up their finances with this car park tax.

As sleuth says:
" You need to act now. A wise man once said that most bad things happen because good people do nothing. Stand up for your town centre."
Well said!!
Last Edit: February 07, 2011, 13:35:56 by Nick Colbert  

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