Overwhelming support to drop parking plans

A straw poll was also taken on the night, with overwhelming support for a motion to urge the Conservative group to consider the concerns of the people of Ely before any decision is taken.

A PUBLIC meeting held to discuss the proposed introduction of car park charges in Ely left residents and traders with “more questions than answers”.

Organised by the Ely Traders Association, the meeting took place in the district council’s chambers and was attended by dozens of residents, traders and councillors, though district council leader Peter Moakes declined an invitation to attend and chose not to send a representative.

Short presentations were given by workers and business owners from the city and the surrounding villages, with the aim of collecting information to present to the council’s ruling Conservative group.

It came to light on the evening however, that there remained divisions among the local Conservatives on the issue, with Tim Clarke of the City of Ely Conservative Group stating that on the balance of evidence the group “did not believe there was a case” for car park charging in the city.

Andrew Olley, on behalf of the Ely Traders Association, said there were “a huge number of questions that needed to be answered,” and called on the ruling Conservative group “not to rush the decision through” without further consultation.

A straw poll was also taken on the night, with overwhelming support for a motion to urge the Conservative group to consider the concerns of the people of Ely before any decision was taken.

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Tracey Reynolds from Ely interiors business Duck Egg Blue, opening the presentations on the evening, outlining the dangers that car parking charges would pose to the city, in light of the decision to approve an application for a new Sainsbury’s supermarket.

“Will people still want to come into the centre of Ely when the new supermarkets are here?,” she said.

Councillor Tom Hunt said he had carried out some research in Newmarket on the impact of car park charging and reported back that, though the town had initially struggled, it was beginning to stabilise.

“The message from Forest Heath District Council was to go ahead with parking charges,” added Cllr Hunt. “They said we would be better placed to cope with it than Newmarket because of the tourism in Ely.”

Jamie Gaskin, from the Newmarket branch of stationers Tindalls, disagreed however, and stated that car park charging had been “a nightmare” for traders in the town.

“Newmarket is turning into a town of charity shops and banks and the amount of quality shops that have been lost is incredible,” he said.

Former county councillor and Ely businessman Matt Bradney, said he believed the car park charges amounted to a “stealth tax” and said the council should hold a referendum on the issue given the level of opposition raised through the 12,000-signature petition.

Liberal Democrat leader Ian Allen was also in attendance and said that, though he could see reasons for introducing charges, including green issues and traffic problems, he believed it was not the right time to bring it a charge.

Two of the conservative councillors who attended on the night – Bill Hunt and Tony Goodge – spoke from the audience and said that the council was listening to people and that the decision would not be taken lightly.

“It would be na�ve to ignore 12,000 signatures,” said Cllr Hunt, “the council is listening reasonably and fairly for the benefit of the people.”

Cllr Goodge told traders and residents that there was a hole in the council’s budget that would have to be balanced and insisted that it was not against Government guidance to raise revenue through parking charges though this was disputed on the evening by Mr Bradney, who said he had obtained guidance from the office of Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.

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