Traders hit out at council over parking debate

CAMPAIGNERS calling for the introduction of parking charges in Ely to be scrapped have accused the council of acting like “playground bullies” by ignoring the weight of public opinion.

The Ely Traders’ Association (ETA) presented a 10,000-signature petition to council chairman Tony Parramint at a meeting of Full Council on February 23 and called on councillors to open up the issue for debate.

Far from holding a discussion however, the ETA claim the ruling Conservative group “disgracefully” opted to ignore the calls for debate and deferred the decision to a sub-committee.

ETA member Andrew Olley, said after the meeting: “Conservative councillors showed no appetite to even listen to the arguments or debate them at full council.

“It is scandalous to think that there are councillors representing the people of Ely and the surrounding area and they can ignore their community so disgracefully.

“Their actions at this meeting didn’t seem to me the actions of responsible individuals; they resembled more the operations of a gang of playground bullies”

“Few people were fooled,” added Barry Lonsdale, chairman of the ETA, who spent six months collating the petition, “The decision is being hidden away, shamefully.”

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Council leader Peter Moakes hit back at the claims however, claiming that the ETA were fully aware that no debate would be taking place at the Full Council on Thursday evening.

“Throughout this whole process we have made it perfectly clear what the timetable for the decision making process was,” he said.

“It should be remembered that it was the previous council that took the decision to bring in charges - the present discussion has always focussed on which model would be used for the implementation of car park charging.

“The ETA was informed they could present the petition to Full Council but a final decision on charging methods was never going to be taken at that meeting.

“The issue was always going to be debated at Development and Transport Committee in March where the results of the public consultation would be revealed.”

The council will be voting whether to give final backing to the parking proposals in March at a meeting of the Strategic Policy and Resource Committee, with opponents claiming that it could be a nail in the coffin for the city centre.

Supporting the petition, Liberal Democrat leader Ian Allen, said: “The petition is an amazing demonstration of public opinion and a genuine expression of concern.

“Now is not the time to introduce parking charges and I am saying that not for political reasons but for local economic reasons.”

Ely Lib Dem Sheila Friend-Smith, added: “Most of us in Ely have been listening very carefully to the residents and what people have been saying about the impact charges could have on the viability of the city.”

Conservative councillor Bill Hunt thanked Mr Olley for his efforts in keeping councillors informed of the debate and said that the petition would form part of the debate.