It was a very, very long meeting of the Parking Panel at County Hall yesterday. And whilst I thought it was wrapping up when I had to leave at two, the meeting apparently managed to drag itself out until 5.30pm.
The outcome is that the proposed groupings of car parks was signed off with a few small amendments. The proposed charging hours were signed off in a similar manner.
The biggest issue was that of the charges themselves. As I have blogged before, the Panel chose to consult all Cornwall Councillors on the various options and the proposal favoured by more members who replied than any other (but just 19 out of 123 councillors in total) would have the following effect on Launceston:
---------- Now --- Proposal --- Change
Hour 1 -- 70p ---- 50p ------- -29%
Hour 2 - 130 ----- 170 -------- +31%
Hour 3 - 190 ----- 280 ------- +47%
Hour 4 - 160 ----- 370 -------- +131%
All day -- 320 ---- 400 -------- +25%
So whilst there would be a small cut in charging for the first hour, this would be massively offset by the high increases in charges for subsequent hours.
After much deliberation, and a few changes to make things cheaper for most of the former Caradon area, these charges were signed off.
The panel was assured that the overall car parking budget was only proposed to increase by 2.8%. So I asked how come Launceston was being penalised in such a huge way. Our town centre shops simply cannot afford the loss in customers that such increases will bring. Regrettably, I didn't get an answer to that one.
I don't know what parts of Cornwall are going to see their parking charges lowered if these proposals are carried through, but I know that drivers using Launceston car parks (in fact, all North Cornwall car parks) will be having to pay far more on average. I don't think that a scheme could have been designed which could do more to drive people out of our town centre and towards Tescos - a point I made to the parking panel.
And, what is more, the promise from the Chairman to retain the North Cornwall rover ticket at an affordable rate has disappeared. This permit costs £190 and enables hundreds of users to park in any long stay car park in North Cornwall. The proposed replacement will allow users to choose four car parks and will cost at least £600 a year for those who want to include Launceston as one of their car parks. The only slight concession was that the cost would go up in stages with a rise to £400 next financial year and only reaching the full £600 rate in 2012-13.
My understanding is that this final proposal will no go out to statutory public consultation before it goes to the Cabinet to be rubber stamped. Because of the significantly detrimental effect on the businesses and people of Launceston, I am asking anyone in our area who is concerned about the rises to have their say on the issue during the consultation. I'll post a link to this as soon as it is available.