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Friday, 24 October 2014

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Opposition to parking charges on Cumbrian streets continues

Anger at plans to charge motorists to park on Cumbria’s streets show no sign of easing as their costly consequences are thrashed out.

Viv Dodd photo
Viv Dodd

Cumbria County Council is scrapping the free disc-parking scheme which currently operates, and will instead charge visitors to park in 11 towns.

Councillors will next week agree the exact criteria but the authority has revealed this includes setting the charges to be “at least equal to or up to 20 per cent above the level of district off-street charging”.

Petitions against the move have gathered signatures across Cumbria with concerns growing about the impact the charges could have on trade. Council chiefs insist the charges are designed to encourage people to use car parks and allow the most convenient on-street locations to become ‘pop and shop’ spots.

The 11 places; Carlisle, Penrith, Workington, Whitehaven, Maryport, Keswick, Cockermouth, Kendal, Barrow, Windermere and Bowness, and Ambleside.

Viv Dodd, secretary of the Carlisle city centre business group, said: “We’ve been led to believe that the parking charges would be £1 and a decision on how much people will have to pay will be decided by Carlisle area committee in June.

“There is logic behind the thinking to charge more, I accept that, but our business group members are totally opposed to the on-street parking charges and I think they will still not want it knowing this.

“I think they’ll react badly to the news they are going to be higher charges. Some of our members reluctantly accepted the £1 idea but their concern is that any charge will drive customers away from the centre of Carlisle as it is happening elsewhere.”

The business group, set up to help turn around the fortunes of the city’s high street, hopes to present its petition against the on-street parking plans to the city’s local panel of county councillors at the end of this month.

Eddy Wilson, of Gilgarran, near Workington, is running an online petition against the council’s proposals. He claims the council’s moves are illegal, arguing that there is legal precedent that states local authorities can not introduce charges simply as a way of raising revenue.

He says the council’s latest move to impose higher charges is to recoup more money from popular tourist areas where he believes car parking charges are more than other places.

Cumbria County Council says the plans to introduce on-street parking charges will go ahead despite opposition, which includes the News & Star’s Keep Our Streets Free campaign.

Carlisle City Council leader Colin Glover is another of the opponents. He said: “This is the wrong time to bring charges in of any kind.

“Although we feel the city is on the up and people have the confidence they can start opening businesses again, the economy is still quite fragile.”

But Keith Little, the county councillor responsible for highways and transport, said: “On-street charging and getting residents to pay for their permits must begin in locations across the county this year.

“The council has agreed to the principle of charging, it is the only effective and sustainable solution to help the council provide effective traffic management services over the coming years. If done correctly and sensitively, it can have a beneficial effect in freeing up the county’s most congested parking areas and encouraging drivers to pop and shop in town centres and keep traffic flowing.”

Cabinet is also set to agree next week that the annual charge for residents’ parking permits will be £20. This will cover the cost of administering and enforcing the residents’ permit scheme.

However, local committees will be given the discretion to remove existing waiting restrictions on streets where they believe residents will not want to pay the £20 annual permit fee.

This means some streets would no longer be restricted.

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