Parties make parking pledge ahead of election

Cllr James Palmer

Cllr James Palmer - Credit: Archant

Conservatives pledged to keep free parking if they retain control of East Cambridgeshire District Council.

Gareth Wilson

Gareth Wilson - Credit: Archant

Their leader Councillor James Palmer told Ely Traders Association that car parks would remain “free of charge under the Conservatives”.

But Lib Dem leader Councillor Gareth Wilson warned that it could be unwise to guarantee free parking as the issue could be taken out of their hands.

Cllr Wilson said: “It is not such a simple and straightforward issue. There is a possibility that we may be forced to introduce a charge after the election, for instance if a system of civil parking enforcement is brought in by the government.

“But unless there is civil parking enforcement, we certainly won’t be in favour of introducing car parking charges. It isn’t a process that happens quickly and, in the immediate future, we would not introduce charges.

“The way the Conservative group managed the process the last time was a shambles.”

Currently Tories control the district council with 23 members, Lib Dems have 10 councillors, and there are five independents and one unaligned councillor.

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Chris Horne, Labour candidate for Haddenham, said his party did not feel there was a case for car parking charges.

“There are serious long term challenges for traders and for the viability of the city centre. Responding to these needs a long term plan. Keeping parking free will help but it is not enough.”

Cllr Palmer said: “If re-elected with a majority Conservatives will retain free car parking in our city and town centres, retaining the status quo for the four year term of our administration.”

Ely Traders’ Association wrote to the three parties calling on them to rule out a fresh attempt at parking charges.

The association scored a major victory in 2012 when it presented a petition signed by 12,000 people calling for Conservative proposals to introduce car parking charges in Ely to be scrapped.

Traders spokesman Andrew Olley said: “Just last Christmas the district council conducted an advertising campaign to Ely promote Ely’s free parking.

“It looks like everyone finally realises that what we have here is a great asset and we can all work together to promote it. It would be unthinkable to go back to the conflict of the past.”