Monday, 8 August 2011

Pressing for urgent changes to Launceston parking

Last week my colleague Sasha Gillard-Loft and I met with the chair of the Council's parking panel as well as parking officers to discuss a whole range of parking issues. The most significant outcome was that we have asked them to urgently reconsider the 3 hour limit on parking in the town centre.

Regrettably, the one thing we couldn't discuss is the amount being demanded by the Council in car park income overall. I've long argued that the authority's view of parking as a cash cow is completely wrong and local shops and businesses are really suffering as a result.

Over the last three years, the pay and display element of Cornwall Council owned car parks in Launceston have taken in approximately £183,000, £182,000 and £181,000. Yet in the current year they expect to make £199,000. I have no idea how they expect this to work and think they are actually likely to make less, not more.

Within the areas we were allowed to discuss we had a good discussion. We raised the key issue of the decision to make the three town centre car parks short stay only, rather than allowing all day parking at a premium as had been the case before. This particular change has brought a huge number of complaints and I have written to Cabinet Member Graeme Hicks on the issue three times (as well as arguing the case before the change was made) and had no reply. Today officers confirmed that this was simply because of a desire to have a 'one size fits all' approach to short and long stay parking across Cornwall with no recognition of local needs.

Sasha and I made the case for an urgent change back to the old system - during the current year if possible. Officers have agreed to go away and look at the chances of a change with the likely option being to allow an all day option at the Walkhouse car park on Tower Street.

We also discussed the very high charge for up to 2 hours parking. Being able to park for an hour for 50p is great, but the jump to £1.70 to stay up to two hours is felt to put many people off from staying longer in our town. I'm glad that officers have taken this on board and will hopefully produce a more reasonable charge proposal for next year.

Finally, we discussed the lack of signage, particularly directing traffic to the Cattle Market long stay car park.

1 comment:

Lanson Chamber said...

Great work Alex and Sasha, you have to keep on at them until they realise the damage these new arrangements are causing.

Of course they will see it as evreyone just having a moan as they always do when things go up.
But they have to be made to understand that these new charges, imposed on top of high fuel prices and the general economic climate are really impacting on footfall in the town centre, and many of the small family run businesses in Launceston will not survive for long if it continues.

At the end of the day, the revenue generated from the car parks is far less relevant than the numbers of visitors we attract into the town.
If by some miracle the council can claim at the end of 12 months that they have increased revenue from Launceston's car parks (or even kept it the same), the real story will be that they have done this from the pockets of far fewer visitors.
And it is this which will kill off the town centre and the mix of small independent businesses we are so lucky to have.

This is one instance where revenue raised will not be a very good measure of the success of the policy.

I would hate to be a tourist visiting Cornwall this year, the cumulative parking charges for a week could well prove prohibitive and discourage future visits.