Tuesday, 14 December 2010

Parking Panel confirms huge rises for Launceston

Today's meeting of Cornwall Council's Parking Panel confirmed the huge increases in parking and season ticket prices for Launceston.

The two key areas are:

Rises of up to 131% in the hourly charges.

Whilst the first hour price will drop slightly, all other charges will see massive increases with the charge for four hours going up by 131%. This is likely to act as a barrier to people coming into our town and using our shops.

Even if the Council continues to make the same amount of money from parking (and I doubt this will be the case) that will come at the cost of lower footfall and less business for local traders.

Season ticket prices to rise to £600

The current season ticket price is £195. The proposal is that these should rise to £600 in two years. As I have mentioned before, there are low paid workers in town for whom £600 represents almost their whole take home pay for a month. And some local businesses with multiple permits have said that they will move out of Launceston rather than pay the increased amounts.

At today's meeting I made the case that the proposed increases would be likely to cause severe hardship to many businesses and workers and could mean people losing their jobs. Nevertheless, the panel voted the proposals through.

Overall, it was a very dispiriting meeting. More than a thousand individuals had taken the time to reply to the consultation yet no changes were proposed by the administration as a result. It seemed like they had heard, but not listened. More that one member of the panel made the point that the administration seems to have a fixed view and was not prepared to change it despite overwhelming evidence to the contrary. And despite the petition with more than 1000 Launceston names arguing against the season ticket rises, the Cabinet member commented that he did not think the issue was particularly controversial.

The administration's policy appears to be that one size should fit all for parking. They repeatedly said that the budget was fixed and demanded an increase in parking income of around 6%. But when anyone tried to make the case for a different balance of charges between different areas of Cornwall they were accused of simply spouting parochial interest.

One aspect that has not been considered at all yet is that of equality. An impact assessment will take place before the Cabinet rubber stamps the policy (why has it not happened already?) but this will focus only on the impact on those with disabilities, older people and (to some extent) people on lower incomes. Of course this is important, but the impact on different areas is not being considered and neither is the economic impact on local shops and businesses. This is a major failing which, if conducted properly, would surely have shown that town centres such as Launceston are hugely vulnerable to parking price rises and will suffer overly if these ridiculous rises are forced through.

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