Car parking Charges Could Mean Sport is Unaffordable

PUBLISHED: 16:56 06 June 2011

So far as the Paradise Centre is concerned, it has evolved over recent years into a community centre, providing health and welfare services, as well as sporting and fitness activities to a wide range of age groups

THE Paradise Centre’s management committee has considered the proposals by East Cambridgeshire District Council (ECDC) and the county council for introducing civil parking enforcement and applying charges for car parking. Like the traders and other service providers, our committee is concerned about the inevitable rise in costs to residents and visitors to Ely. Many businesses are operating on a small margin of profit and any move which results in a reduction of this profit will have a drastic effect on the city’s viability in a time of financial pressure. One of Ely’s commercial attractions to shoppers and visitors is the absence of car parking charges, encouraging retail and leisure activity in the city.

Proposals for the introduction of parking enforcement are set out on the county council’s website and centre around the rationalisation of on and off-street parking and the employment of nine enforcement officers to patrol the district and monitor the car parks and traffic.

However, a press release from former councillor Fred Brown refers to the current cost of providing car parking as £450,000 (5/11/2010). There are 13 car parks in the district, most of which are in Ely, from which the majority of income (including fixed penalty notices) would be derived, with charges for on-street parking and residents parking. In addition to the stated cost, the employment of seven additional enforcement officers (there are two employed currently) and on-going costs for management, administration, uniform and equipment and transport, as well as whatever cost the county council applies for administering the scheme. Taking this into account, it would appear that the council is proposing to add all the above to the costs of maintaining car parks, with the possibility that the increased costs would not be met. The level of charges will be open to increase without any discussion if the costs of the scheme aren’t met. The submission to the DfT includes the following sentence: ‘given that parking is not a major issue in the district’, the provision of on-street permitted spaces is very limited, and significant provision is to be found only in the centre of Ely’, which makes you wonder why they are entering into a process which almost certainly will lead to additional expenditure at a time when budgets are being reduced and services cut.

So far as the Paradise Centre is concerned, it has evolved over recent years into a community centre, providing health and welfare services, as well as sporting and fitness activities to a wide range of age groups. Many of the people using the centre and the Newnham Street Car Park are from disadvantaged or low income groups.

We also work with local GP surgeries. Charges to these groups are deliberately kept at a low level to make them affordable to all.

If the council agrees to implement civil parking enforcement and apply car parking charges, the effect will be to make the centre unaffordable for many of the low income or disadvantaged users. The Government has expressed its desire for local authorities to provide greater opportunities for exercise to all, particularly in the year of the Olympics. The imposition of parking charges will have the opposite effect.

JOHN BLUNT

Chairman, management committee

Paradise Centre

Newnham Street

Ely

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