Gareth Wilson

Liberal Democrat Campaigner for Haddenham & Aldreth Learn more

Lib Dems says NO

by Gareth Wilson on 18 February, 2013

The Liberal Democrats Group on East Cambs District Council have consistently opposed the current Parking plan and have used the Scrutiny, Finance & Governance and Development & Transport committees to point out the many flaws in the administration’s plans (as their minutes will show.)

The original plan although simple would just not work and would cause an enormous amount of administration by ECDC officers and was rightly abandoned.  The current scheme is designed to produce enough income to cover the costs of Ely’s car parks but with scant regard for the residents and workers of Ely and for the traders in the City centre.

Trying to introduce a car park payment scheme while ignoring on street parking is doomed to failure.  The police cannot be expected to rigorously enforce parking restrictions with their many other priorities.  You only have to see the illegal parking on double yellow lines on Forehill to see this proved.

We have complained about the public questionnaire and the way that the questions forced the answers to be positive, with no way to say that you objected to the whole scheme and I was told that the box for comments at the end should be used.  The questions were never presented to any committee.  I assume the Conservative leadership did see them.  Running concurrently is a much less publicised consultation People who wish to object to the principle of introducing parking charges need to send written objections to the EAST CAMBRIDGESHIRE DISTRICT COUNCIL (OFF STREET PARKING PLACES) ORDER 2013.

I personally could accept a charging scheme for Ely’s car parks but only as part of a Civil Parking Enforcement plan (CPE was previously called decriminalisation.) This would involve the responsibility for enforcing parking regulations on streets passing from the police to the local authority.  It would have to be in partnership with the County Council and is common across the country, for example in Cambridge.  This would mean that residents parking could be enforced and parking on double yellow lines would be penalised, with the proceeds of the fines coming to the local authority rather than the exchequer.  This should include a free park and ride scheme so drivers coming from our villages would be able to park all day for nothing and free city centre streets from their cars. This would mean that council employees could occasionally be sent out to villages to enforce yellow lines on dangerous corners and outside schools.  Charging for parking in our car parks will encourage drivers to park in our residential streets.

As an opposition group we realise that we are unlikely to be able to stop parking charges being introduced this summer, we have therefore proposed changes which would have improved the Tories’ scheme.

  • The restriction on parking before 10.00am to deter commuters conflicts with those residents that live in the centre of Ely and have no off street parking.  We have long argued that they should get the same permits as businesses. We were ignored.
  • At last week’s Finance & Governance meeting I argued that the existing Business Parking Permits need to be brought in line with any new car parking charges system.  Why should a business pay £50 a year when an individual pays £2.50 a day or £5 a week.  We were ignored.
  • If a driver pays for an all day ticket but has to move his car during the day the present scheme states that he has to pay again. We proposed that his ticket should cover all the car parks.  We were ignored.
  • However, the most important element is the ability to park for nothing for those particularly who work in shops etc. and are paid a small salary.  We believe that a free park and ride system would help these people and would provide long stay parking for shoppers and keep cars outside the city centre.  A car park on the council owned land at Downham Road would provide a site in the medium term, however I proposed the reintroduction of the park and ride service which used to run every Saturday at 15-minute intervals from Ely Community College to Market Street in the City Centre. (Saturday being the day with the worst parking problem.)  This would have cost a very small amount certainly less than £13,000 and would only be introduced when parking charges started.  Because we proposed it, all except one Conservative voted it down.

Introducing Car Parking charges with this half thought through scheme, at a time of economic problems, is very unwise and is the reason why Lib Dems have opposed Parking Charges being introduced now.

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