Keeping parking charges at bay

I COULD not wait to write and share with you the joy of the Ely Traders Association in further securing the no car parking charge status of our city. This week, the Environment and Transport Committee of East Cambs District Council voted to support ou

I COULD not wait to write and share with you the joy of the Ely Traders' Association in further securing the 'no car parking charge' status of our city.

This week, the Environment and Transport Committee of East Cambs District Council voted to support our ideas for a new commuter car park, under council control, thus keeping charge blight away from our city for the distant future.

Everyone agreed that we needed a car park in the vicinity of the station to facilitate commuters, thus removing them from the city centre car parks. The proposal that was being promoted by the council officers and the Liberal Democrat Party was to hand £700,000 of taxpayers' money to the railway company, to extend their car park, for their customers. This would mean that our commuters would be paying £3.50 per day to park (station's existing prices) and that the council would have no future control over cost increases.

If the railway company, in the future, increased the charge significantly this could have forced commuters back into our city centre car parks. This car park extension would have produced only 100-120 car parking spaces.

We believe that if this idea is adopted, due to the low number of spaces, higher cost of parking and likely increases, this would not have succeeded in improving car parking in Ely. The introduction of parking charges as early as 2008 were linked to this move. The Liberal Democrat Party fully support the introduction of parking charges to create a bus service which would circulate around Ely and the abandoning of the free bus service previously offered by Tesco.

For these reasons, the ETA was against the proposal. We urged the council to purchase a piece of land on Angel Drove, as near to the station as possible, for commuters to use, at a reasonable charge, and under council control and ownership for ever. We were delighted when members of the Conservative Party agreed that our plan was sound and preferable. Cllr Ashton, who had previously supported charges but who now accepts that public opinion is strongly against, produced a financial spreadsheet and put forward our proposal. The charge will pay for this facility after 22 years, thus leaving this site an asset for the city, and with the charges under council control.

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It is understood that the £2 charge on the car park will also enable the Park-and-Ride scheme, currently operating to some success on a Saturday, to be extended to Thursdays.

At the meeting this week, our proposal, surprisingly, won the vote against what seemed like all the odds, the first option having been so heavily backed by the council officers. During representations by Conservative councillors, it was gratifying to hear three of them finally say that they wanted 'no parking charges for Ely, ever. The Conservative group, as a whole, will not say 'never' but have stated that charges would only be looked at again to fund a specific project and that, at that time, the case would be so strong that the ETA would be in agreement!

This might be one battle won, but it means our principles have been adopted. Once this car park is operational, the existing car parks will have their timings reviewed, also in accordance with views expressed by us, and our policy of slowly making improvements to parking in Ely rather than the grandiose plans which involve taxing the motorists of Ely and surrounding areas, and including our visitors to the detriment of the city's shopping centre.

The ETA now enjoys a relatively productive relationship with the council interacting via our liaison officer, Alison Callaby, looking at many aspects involving the city centre, everything from litter, street paving and drainage to meeting with the police regarding crime prevention. A lottery to raise funds for the city's Christmas lights will also be unveiled.

It is due to the continued support of the public that we have achieved this success. Last year, more than 11,000 people signed our petition against charges, most, probably not believing they could make a difference. Without the feeling of continued support, it would have been easy to give up the fight, indeed without this public support we had no case at all.

Even if you never need to use the commuter car park you will realise that this project will not only enable you to find a space in our existing car parks, but to continue to park for free, a rare and wonderful commodity.



Ely Traders' Association