Freeing up car spaces

IT falls to me as chairman of the Environment and Transport Committee at East Cambridgeshire District Council to reply to the letter from Elaine Griffin Singh. The subject as always was free car parking and how to save it. The letter contained a number of

IT falls to me as chairman of the Environment and Transport Committee at East Cambridgeshire District Council to reply to the letter from Elaine Griffin Singh.

The subject as always was free car parking and how to save it. The letter contained a number of misapprehensions and mistaken assertions that need correcting.

Tesco did not purchase planning permission for the store extension, and the section 106 money negotiated as a community contribution is not paying for the commuter car park.

The Tesco money having to be spent within a limited timescale has been targeted at improving the station frontage - work that has already begun. This will provide extra car parking, cycle, pedestrian and junction improvements and good access to the new car park. Some of the Tesco money has assisted with the land purchase for the new car park, for which incidentally no charge has yet been set.


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Alongside this physical work, council officers have been struggling to come up with an enforcement regime that will encourage commuters to use the new car park. It is important that the regime is fair and seen to be so, and is enforceable.

Readers who do not have the time or inclination to trawl through council meeting minutes might be interested to know that the new car park and interchange proposals were proposed by myself and seconded by councillor Nigel Bell, both Liberal Democrats. We are not anti car, we are seeking practical answers in a pragmatic way to keep the city accessible. We welcome the Saturday extension of the car park-and-ride service and would seek to serve Thursdays in future, we recognise that pedestrians, cyclists, bus users and car drivers are all part of the transport mix.

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If Mrs Griffin-Singh was elected to ECDC she would find that having a single issue platform is untenable, the role of a responsible councillor is to balance priorities. All East Cambs residents pay a substantial percentage of their Council Tax in order that there is free parking in Ely. Many of those residents live remotely from Ely and may look to Newmarket as their local centre - where there is charging.

Conservative councillor Brian Ashton produced a set of figures that proved that the new charged car park would cover costs plus interest over a 30-year period operating at 80 per cent capacity. The Environment and Transport Committee unanimously accepted this.

Existing free car parks entail significant costs, free at point of use for those that use them, but paid for by all whether they use them or not.

I wish Mrs Griffin-Singh well, but if she is elected she may find that she is outnumbered by councillors from the south of the district with other financial priorities, many of whom are Conservative.

IAN ALLEN

Liberal Democrat chairman environment and transport.

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