Parking debate becomes a farce

PUBLISHED: 11:15 25 May 2006 | UPDATED: 13:30 04 May 2010

Anna Hitchin with her children Christina and Max

Anna Hitchin with her children Christina and Max

A CONTROVERSIAL debate into parking on Ely Cathedral land turned into something of a farce on Tuesday night when councillors refused to take control of future discussion on the issue. The Conservative group won the latest round in their fight for car park

A DEBATE into parking on Ely Cathedral land turned into something of a farce on Tuesday night when councillors refused to take control of future discussion on the issue.

The Conservative group won the latest round in their fight for car parking on the land, but were immediately accused of trying to off-load the "unpopular decision" on their opposition councillors.

The attack came as councillors hit stalemate as they tried to elect a chairman and vice-chairman for the environment and transport committee which will discuss the parking issue.

In a scenario never seen before at East Cambridgeshire District Council, none of the councillors was prepared to step forward to accept the roles for the coming year, leaving the committee without a leader.

Now each time it meets during the next 12 months, a chairman and vice-chairman will have to be elected and if a decision cannot be made councillors will be forced to draw lots.

"The Conservative group won the vote on this but they have not got the courage of their conviction," said Cllr Ian Allen, Liberal Democrat member of the environment and transport committee.

"They refused to take the chair and vice-chair and are trying to off-load responsibility to implement this unpopular decision on to us."

The controversial plan to extend the Broad Street car park onto cathedral land at the bottom of Cherry Hill Park was pushed onto the next stage by just one vote at the annual district council meeting.

The Conservatives voting with some of the Independents moved on the proposal to the environment and transport committee meeting in June with a recommendation that it should then go to full council in July.

But it was agreed that a public consultation should take place and views sought from Ely City Council, parish councils and the traders before a final decision is made.

Liberal Democrats were furious, accusing the Conservatives of ignoring an Ely Standard poll which showed nearly 90 per cent of people who took part were against the proposal. The Ely Standard has also received a large amount of letters from readers who are opposed to the scheme.

The poll drew just 11 votes in favour of the scheme and 86 votes against it, in less than two weeks.

Former environment and transport committee chairman, Conservative group leader Cllr Brian Ashton, said: "It is exceedingly difficult to accept responsibility for a committee which continually votes in a way different to the way you want it to. It is difficult to take responsibility for other people's actions.

"This committee is led by the Liberal Democrats. They have the vote on the committee and they should take responsibility for it.

"But there will never be a question of the committee not operating. I'm sure we will all agree to draw lots if necessary. This is very regrettable."

Ely resident, mother-of-two Anna Hitchin has launched a website to fight the car parking proposal and has been delivering leaflets throughout the city.

She said: "Everybody I have spoken to has been completely shocked and outraged. I have not found a single person in favour of this proposal.

"Everyone acknowledges there is a problem with traffic and parking but no-one feels this is the solution."

Anna's website can be visited at www.elycarpark.org. To cast your vote on the Ely Standard parking poll visit the website at www.ely-standard.co.uk.

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