Parking mad

PUBLISHED: 09:59 23 November 2006 | UPDATED: 13:36 04 May 2010

PARKING provision in Ely is insufficient. That s the view of the vast majority of residents who completed my recent survey on life in the city. Thank goodness, therefore, that - at last - East Cambridgeshire councillors have decided to do something about

PARKING provision in Ely is insufficient. That's the view of the vast majority of residents who completed my recent survey on life in the city.

Thank goodness, therefore, that - at last - East Cambridgeshire councillors have decided to do something about it.

Many of them, as well as local shopkeepers, have known for a long while that parking stock is too full to operate efficiently and that the situation will deteriorate as the population grows.

Even those councillors who are avowedly anti-car should realise that cars are essential for people living in East Cambridgeshire.

For a growing city, with more people coming to work, shop and visit, this is a problem which cannot be ignored. If they cannot park here they will take their business elsewhere.

Buses and bikes have a part to play, but many people want to complete their shopping in a short time - they don't have time to wait around.

Ely is not, thank goodness, a large metropolis where we can afford huge transport infrastructure. It is, in effect, a small market town where people come to shop not only from the city itself, but from the surrounding villages. In fact, 77 per cent of the cars in existing car parks are from outside Ely.

In the last five years, there have been more than 1,500 housing completions in Ely and more in the villages. That means more cars, something like 1,000 more every year in Ely alone, and greater demand for parking. But supply has not kept pace with demand.

With a further 727 houses in the pipeline and 6,500 more in the area it will get worse. But if there is broad consensus about the problem, the solution to it is much more vexed.

I asked respondents to put forward their ideas about how the lack of parking should be addressed. More parking spaces at the station was popular.

Some said the Market Square should be turned back into a short-term car park. Others would like to see a park-and-ride scheme, while there were mixed views on car park charging.

All these opinions were taken into consideration by the council. Clearly, tough decisions have to be made and some of the council's proposals - such as the need to regulate hours to make commuters use the new station car park - have proved controversial. But there is a problem, and unless we want the city of Ely to become a museum, we have to face up to it.

Dismissing out-of-hand any new parking plan or finding fault with proposals which were not their idea - as is the habit of some councillors - is irresponsible, as people will increasingly vote with their feet or, in this case, wheels! Doing nothing is not an option, but neither are more spaces the whole solution.

Much more must be done to enhance walking and cycling routes and to encourage people out of their cars and on to public transport.

But, as the council recognises, Ely is poorly served by buses compared to other market towns. This is borne out by four-fifths of respondents to my survey who rated bus services into the city, "average" or "poor". Subsidising buses is expensive whether for park-and-ride or for the villages. If it is not paid for by our Council Tax - and I suggest we already pay enough - it has to come from parking income.

Some of those councillors who have advocated grand schemes are those who were responsible for huge increases in the Council Tax in the past.

Now that decisions have been made, it is time for those who don't like it to stand aside and allow others to get on with it.

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