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Wednesday, 30 July 2014

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Hundreds sign up to fight Cumbria on-street parking fees plan

Hundreds of people have voiced their opposition to proposed parking charges being introduced on the county’s streets.

Car parking petition photo
From left, councillor Willie Whalen, Julia Clifford, Viv Dodd secretary of Carlisle City Centre Business Group, Jo Clifford from Curves, Jenny Key, of Neil’s Carpet Shop, Chris Corrieri, from Brucciani’s and Angela Corrieri, from Fun 2 Do

Cumbria County Council’s decision to introduce on-street charges was part of its multi-million pound savings budget, which was approved by councillors last month.

It will see the abolition of disc zones and shoppers forced to pay to park in 11 towns and cities, including: Carlisle; Cockermouth; Keswick; Penrith; Maryport; Whitehaven; and Workington.

The move has been met with outrage from shoppers and horror from business leaders, who claim it will spell the end for many small businesses who barely weathered the economic downturn.

Among them is Julia Clifford, who runs the female-only gym Curves in Carlisle city centre.

Last week she told the News & Star that if on-street charges were introduced, it would put her out of business within a week.

Julia claimed that her gym specialises in 30-minute workouts and affordable fitness, so if customers were forced to pay £1 every time they attend – up to five times a week for some women – they will take their custom elsewhere.

A petition was launched in Curves with the aim of gathering at least 100 signatures. This would allow councillor Willie Whalen, who is backing Julia, to present it to his county council colleagues.

Less than a week after its launch and the petition was yesterday presented to Mr Whalen – complete with more than 300 signatures.

“I am absolutely delighted,” Julia said. “This is just from friends and family of Curves: I am convinced and sure that if I had the time and energy to pound the streets I would get thousands upon thousands of people supporting the city’s businesses.”

She continued: “If we still live in a democracy and not a Communist country, [the petition] should make a difference. The people should be heard.”

Her views were echoed by Mr Whalen, who is the only Labour councillor to so far speak out against the plans.

He told the News & Star: “It is terrific that 300 people have signed in such a short time – think how many people can sign before the next cabinet meeting.”

Asked whether he believes the council might reconsider the charges, Mr Whalen said: “I never give up: Why join a fight if you’re not going to win it?

“I have been asked by the electorate to do something about an issue they feel strongly about and, as a politician, it would be very foolish not to take notice and represent their view.”

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