Campaigners call for recognition in battle against parking charge

A GROUP campaigning against the introduction of parking charges in Ely has accused the council of ignoring a public outcry against the plans.

The Ely Traders’ Association (ETA) say that, despite two months of vigorous campaigning, the council’s ruling Conservative group had not once met with them to discuss their opposition to the plans, which includes an 11,000-signature petition.

The traders say that the Conservative group is preparing to meet at the weekend to decide on its policy over parking, a decision which, the ETA claims, could prove a nail in the coffin for independent traders in the city.

The council has denied the claims however, saying that the plans would be discussed and debated in the “best spirit of democracy.”

ETA spokesman Andrew Olley said: “The truth is that the Conservative group in the council set up a committee of six councillors more than two months ago to look into charging us for parking. Despite a series of letters, this committee have not met with traders to discuss their concerns.

“The Conservatives are due to present their findings to the majority Conservative group this weekend. The group will then vote on whether to impose parking charges. “There will be no way that the rest of the council can outvote them should they try to push through their policy. There is something very unfair and wrong in the way the council is informing us about this issue. We shouldn’t accept this.”

Mr Olley also claimed that the council was in breach of new Government rules which forbid local authorities from using car parking charges as a means of raising money, though the council has denied this is the case.

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“Government statements make it crystal clear that local authorities must not raise revenue through car parking charges because parking restrictions have hit small shops the hardest, creating ghost town high streets which cant compete with out-of-town supermarkets,” added Mr Olley.

“It is not just the 11,000 people who have signed the petition who are telling the council to protect the city. Now it is the Government as well.”

The ETA is now urging residents to add their signature to the petition and has invited residents to a public meeting, set to take place at 6.30pm in the East Cambridgeshire District Council chamber.

Cllr Peter Moakes, leader at the district council, said: “Over the summer, and quite understandably, many people have signed a petition saying they do not want to pay for something they have become accustomed to getting for free.

“However, I think we all know the hundreds of thousands of pounds we spend on car parking could be used to protect and support other community based services if there was a charging regime in place to fund car parking.

“This is why when we do put forward any proposals, I promise they will go through the committee process within the council to be discussed and debated in the best spirit of democracy. We will also go through an open, honest and extensive consultation to let everyone put forward their views. We have said throughout the last two months we will listen to every voice, read every email and consider any petitions which we receive. It would therefore be wrong to try to prejudge any decision which councillors who were elected by the public to serve on their behalf may make in the months ahead.”