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Wednesday, 23 July 2014

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On-street parking charges a huge mistake, says Carlisle MP

An MP says county council chiefs are making a huge mistake by forcing through controversial parking charges.

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John Stevenson: ‘Cost would be marginal’

Carlisle’s John Stevenson shares fears that the fees could drive shoppers out of the county’s town centres.

He spoke out after hundreds of people attended a public meeting in a show of opposition against the move as pressure for a u-turn on the charges grows.

Cumbria County Council is facing ever-increasing calls to scrap introduce charges that opponents fear will hit traders hard.

Mr Stevenson said: “I think this is a huge strategic error by the council. What we want to see is a prosperous and buoyant city centre and one thing that will put people off coming in is car parking charges.”

He is worried that parking charges could encourage shoppers to head to Gretna or Newcastle and avoid Carlisle city centre.

Mr Stevenson added that city centre businesses had started to lobby him on parking changes.

“It is a council matter and, at the end of the day, all I can do is highlight the folly of their actions, which I will do.”

The authority plans to introduce parking in 11 towns across Cumbria, including Carlisle, Penrith, Workington, Whitehaven and Keswick, to meet a funding gap.

Opponents in each of those towns are being urged to unite in a show of strength against the charges.

Heidi Halliday, a county councillor in the Lake District, is backing a demonstration against the fees in Ambleside at 10.30am on July 4. She believes people in all affected areas should protest on the same day, at the same time, to show the depth of feeling.

At a public meeting in Ambleside on Thursday, Nigel Wilkinson of Windermere Lake Cruises accused the county council of not looking at the big picture.

“The effects of this proposal will vary from business to business. But perhaps with the exception of the supermarkets with their own car parks, I can’t think of any businesses in this area that will benefit.”

The charges are being introduced in the face of the council having to find nearly £90m more of savings because of Government spending cuts.

South Lakes MP Tim Farron has written to county council leader Stewart Young asking him to reverse the decision.

He said: “I believe this proposal is bad for residents, businesses and communities. The council has got this wrong. I hope that councillors of all parties will listen and go back to the drawing board.”

Unrest is also growing in Maryport and Workington, where opposition groups are emerging and MP Sir Tony Cunningham has been lobbied.

Alternatives to the charges are expected to be detailed at a meeting on Monday, when a scrutiny committee considers whether the decision by the ruling cabinet was a correct one. That debate is taking place after the ruling was called in by Conservative and independent councillors.

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