No change On Parking Charges Despite Opposition
At the end of the meeting we pointed out that the council had not changed its plan one iota despite all of the opposition and concern.
ON Sunday October 23, the Ely Traders’ Association met with Peter Moakes, the head of East Cambridgeshire District Council, and other Conservative councillors in a last ditch attempt to get the council to listen to the views of local traders, organisations and residents. We urged the councillors not to go against the views of the 12,000 people who have signed a petition against charging for parking in Ely, or the 100 people who attended a public meeting in opposition to this policy. The Conservative group chose to ignore all the points raised at Sunday’s meeting and just four days later voted to impose policy in favour of the introduction of parking charges. Out of the options available to them, the one they have put forward will mean charges are more expensive than Huntingdon and Newmarket. We explained that we felt this would mean less people from outside of Ely would choose to shop in Ely. Councillors felt this point was a subjective view.
In light of the news of the development of a huge new Tesco and Sainsbury, along with 1,500 free parking spaces on the edge of town traders asked councillors to arrange a proper impact study to judge the effect that this massive change will have on trade in the town centre. The ETA explained that the council was allowing a situation which greatly favoured the supermarkets. People in Ely were being encouraged to pop out of town to shop. Councillors did not feel that this was the case. Peter Moakes explained that these developments might bring people into the city centre. This view, of course, goes against the Government’s own understanding and that of the Portas Commission, which is currently touring towns where these policies have left town centres devastated.
The ETA wrote to the leader of the council two weeks ago to ask how the council intended to protect the town centre and deliver on the policy laid out in the Ely Masterplan. In this plan they set out how they intend to develop a vibrant city centre. There has been no reply to this letter. This is worrying.
The ETA pointed out the �20 annual permit scheme that the council is relying on is untried and untested. Selling expensive permits relies on people really wanting them enough to go to the council office to buy them. We asked councillors to explain where in the country this scheme works, but they were unwilling to divulge this information. We asked them to run a proper independent survey before they risk putting taxpayer’s money into developing the scheme. They were unwilling to do so. They were shocked that we thought untrained shop staff should not be asked to help shoppers fill in confidential paperwork at till points in order to purchase these permits in shops.
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We explained that describing the charge as a day’s parking was misleading. In reality the car parks would remain two-hour car parks and shoppers would have to keep returning to the car to move it to other car parks. This is clearly the council’s way of disguising the fact that it is charging �1 for one or two hours, which the length of time most people use the city centre. This charge is a very high charge. Newmarket generates �450,000 by charging 50p for two hours’ parking.
The council admitted at the meeting that it only needed �217,000 to balance the books. They were not prepared to say how much they thought the scheme would earn them. The Department for Transport has already explained to the district council that raising revenue through a stealth tax of this kind is against Government policy.
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At the end of the meeting we pointed out that the council had not changed its plan one iota despite all of the opposition and concern. In their attempt to generate revenue, the Conservative group has ignored the views of their own Government, the views of their local Ely Conservative group and the views of both other parties. But most importantly they have ignored the views of the local people and businesses. They have lost sight of who they represent.
Ely Traders’ Association