Residents ‘stitched up’ by council’s pay to park
PUBLISHED: 07:00 30 July 2012
‘OUTRAGEOUS’, ‘unfair and unacceptable’ and a ‘crazy, ill-conceived plan’ - is how Weston residents describe the decision to introduce pay-and-display parking in the town centre.
Residents are being ‘well and truly stitched up’ by North Somerset Council’s ‘poor permit scheme that leaves them worse off’, according to one councillor.
Residents say the scheme, which forces people to pay to park on their own roads during the daytime, will damage struggling town centre businesses and discourage visitors.
They argue it is a thinly-disguised money-making exercise for the council.
Others have said the scheme discriminates against the disabled and unfairly asks residents to walk to far-away off-street car parks.
People also say permits are too expensive and Weston is being unfairly treated compared to other parts of North Somerset such as Clevedon and Nailsea.
In total, the scheme will see meters introduced on 27 Weston streets, demanding motorists cough up as much as £1.20 an hour for a maximum of two hours during the daytime, as well as charging residents for annual permits.
Dozens of resident complaints have this week been published on the council’s website, ahead of the planned introduction of the scheme in October.
Among them, Brian Sheldrake, of Palmer Row, said: “This is unfair expensive, discriminatory and is aimed at an already sadly disadvantaged area.”
And he was backed by Phil Davies, of Hopkins Street, who said: “Please reconsider this crazy, ill-conceived plan that penalises local residents.”
Owner of Chris’ Restaurant in St James Street Emilia Constantinou said: “The introduction of parking meters would not only discourage visitors to Weston, but more importantly would contribute even further to the decline in trade.
“Mary Portas, the ‘Queen of Shops’, has been trying to regenerate the British High Street, and her policy is to offer free parking to entice the shopper back.
“I know we have a problem with people parking all day, but this is not the answer. Do not put the final nail in the coffin.”
Mr AGF Hiller provided the council with some alternatives to introducing parking charges.
He said: “Don’t replace working street lights with new ones, don’t publish North Somerset Life magazine, don’t pay some firm £110,000 a year to cut the grass at Hutton Moor, bring all the Clevedon council offices back to Weston.
“There you are, lots of money saved.”
Jerry Streeter said: “I think it is outrageous that we are now going to be charged to park on the street when we briefly visit Weston town centre to shop or meet friends for coffee.”
Steph Hooper said: “As a resident of Alma Street I feel I shouldn’t have to pay to park outside my own home.”
Mike and Sue Harding, of Palmer Street, said: “Residents living outside the town – Locking Castle and Worle for example – will have nothing to encourage them to visit the town at all if parking charges are introduced and existing charges increased.
“They can just as quickly reach Cribbs Causeway where there is free parking and far superior shopping facilities – thus harming the already precarious trading in Weston’s High Street.”
Nick Georgiades said: “Installation of pay-and-display meters would create a potential increase in crime to the whole area, because the meters are a temptation for random attacks.
“The council has its own employee free parking.
“Would it not be fair that they also pay as does the general public for the privilege of parking in the town centre?”
Cllr Mike Bell, leader of the opposition Liberal Democrat party, said: “Weston residents are being well and truly stitched up.
“It is hugely disappointing town centre residents are being offered such a poor permit scheme that leaves them worse off.
“Despite many legitimate concerns that the proposed charge could kill town centre business, that residents were getting a raw deal and that the knock on effects had not been thought through, the proposals are being rail-roaded through by the executive.
“We will continue to fight for further changes to make the proposals work for residents and for Weston.
“Despite all the fanfare, the whole scheme will do nothing to improve parking more generally in Weston or across the district.
“It will do little to impact upon illegal and inconsiderate parking, even within the pay-and-display zone.
“But it will line Town Hall coffers, which many believe was the plan all along.”
Police have responded to criticisms that Avon and Somerset Constabulary does not do enough to enforce double yellow lines and loading bays in Weston.
Some objectors to North Somerset Council’s new parking scheme cited the lack of policing of illegal parking as one reason it will not work.
A fine for not having a parking ticket or permit in council-controlled areas, such as on-street bays and off-street car parks is £70, reduced to £35 or £40 depending on the seriousness of the offence if paid within seven days.
But the fine from police for flouting double or single yellows is set at £30.
A spokesman for the force said: “The situation in North Somerset is that the local authority has responsibility for the enforcement of parking bays and both on and off-road.
“The enforcement of parking on both single and double yellow lines in North Somerset remains with the police.
“This role has to be balanced against other policing priorities – including combating antisocial behaviour and drugs problems.”
North Somerset Council has responded to criticism over the pay-to-park plans, arguing it is necessary to reduce congestion, boost trade and free up spaces.
A statement issued by the authority said: “The scheme is intended to answer concerns by traders, shoppers and disabled drivers over parking congestion and unauthorised on-street long stay parking by making spaces more easily available.
“It will make spaces more available to shoppers, raising the economic vitality of the town, and improve traffic flow and disabled parking.
“In addition it will enable off-street short-stay parking charges to be reduced.
“The traffic reduction orders were advertised and 40 individual comments were received, including 20 from the 1,100 residential addresses within the scheme area.
“Of the 40 comments only 15 people in the zone actually objected, with others either agreeing with the scheme or providing constructive suggestions.”