Pay and dismay another delay

PUBLISHED: 11:43 19 January 2006 | UPDATED: 11:27 04 May 2010

THE bitterly disputed plans to introduce car parking charges in Ely are back to square one after nearly two years of protest, debate and thousands of pounds of taxpayer s money. And the future of the entire scheme is now in question after the district cou

THE bitterly disputed plans to introduce car parking charges in Ely are back to square one after nearly two years of protest, debate and thousands of pounds of taxpayer's money.

And the future of the entire scheme is now in question after the district council's Environment and Transport Committee decided on Tuesday to put the final decision to introduce charging in the city off until September.

As a result of Tuesday night's meeting it was decided:

# To abandoned plans for a park-and-ride site.

# The working party would be ditched in favour of in-house specialists.

# A costly series of new plans will be drawn-up.

# The council will look at bringing in private firms to deal with parking offences.

The committee has been forced to abandon original plans to build a park-and-ride site outside the city, and has agreed to go back to the drawing board for eight months to develop an entirely new strategy.

Councillor Brian Ashton, chairman of the Environment and Transport Committee, said: "Since the loss of the scheme based on Angel Drove, there is now no certain proposal on the table that will increase access to the city, and until there is, I think the truth of that is that people won't vote for parking charges."

Consultants had been looking for an alternative site after plans to relocate district council headquarters to Angel Drove were ditched last year - ruling out the possibility of an affordable park-and-ride at the same site.

Officers at the council will now work behind closed doors on an entirely new approach, after the committee decided to dissolve the working party put together to examine the original proposals.

Cllr Ashton said the new plans will be put together by officers employed by the council instead of councillors and other members of the working party, to avoid a time-consuming "bureaucratic process of committees".

Members of The Ely Traders' Association, who were represented on the working party until its dissolution on Tuesday, were incensed at the council's decision to enter into another costly period of examination.

"I can't understand how they've got to today and they still don't know how they're going to do this," William Burton said, adding that he felt the traders' place on the working party was a token gesture.

Elaine-Griffin Singh, who dismissed the working party as "a farce" in last week's Ely Standard said: "The council have got no will to sort this out easily."

The new set of proposals will focus on decriminalisation of on-street parking, which if adopted, will see the council take control of parking penalties from the police - a system that already operates in Cambridge and other cities across the country.

Cllr Ashton dismissed the idea that Ely would be overrun with traffic wardens employed by private contractors, adding that the strategy is still in its infancy.

"I would hesitate to say whether the parking wardens would be employed by the council or independently of the council," he said.

"It is not intended to be a money-making scheme - the vast majority of people will stick to the rules."

The new strategy will also examine improvements to existing parking stock and the possibilities for increasing the city's parking spaces.

East Cambridgeshire officers will now get to work on the new plans, ahead of a seminar in July, at which interested parties can air their views and debate the fine detail of the proposals.

Cllr Ashton acknowledged that the process had taken a long time, but said that "doing nothing" is not an option.

"We have to recognise that the population has grown dramatically, to the point that queues on some days are starting before 9am in the morning.

"The question should not be 'Do you want to pay for parking?' - It should be 'Did you enjoy waiting 20 minutes for that parking space?' and 'Would you pay 30p for it to go away?"

WHAT DO YOU THINK?

Was it democratic to dissolve the working party? What do you think about the huge cost of implementing the scheme? Can you offer a solution to the parking problems in Ely? Write to: The editor, The Ely Standard, 38 Market Street, Ely, Cambs, CB7 4LS or email: debbie.davies@archant.co.uk

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