Monday, 28 May 2012

Bean-counters and Hicks-onomics - why Cornwall Council is stifling local parking ideas

I complain quite often about how Cornwall Council's parking regime has adversely affected local shops and businesses in Launceston. The latest Cornish Guardian carries a similar story about Liskeard.

The attitude of those at County Hall - that parking services is a cash cow that can be milked at will - means that prices inexorably rise. Even though Cornwall Council has never hit their income targets, the amount they get in from parking in Liskeard has risen a bit over the years. The trouble is that this has come at a cost of fewer cars actually parking in the town and consequently lower footfall in the shops there.

The Council's parking panel - a group with the best of intentions which is increasingly ignored by those with the power to take decisions - says it receives lots of innovative ideas for making parking better but these are rejected by the bean-counters.

Perhaps the most telling contribution actually comes from Cabinet member in charge of parking Graeme Hicks. Cllr Hicks is quoted in the paper as saying that "too much credence" was given to car parking charges in assessing the viability of town centres. "You cannot just sit down and say it's car parking – people will pay where the quality shops are in places such as Plymouth and Truro,"

At the end of last week, the Government and industry experts recognised Liskeard's shops for what they are - a very strong independent retail offer for a local market town - and awarded them Portas Pilot status. (I would argue that Launceston's shops are just as good!) The experts clearly believe that good shops on their own are not enough to attract visitors.

In the land of Hicks-onomics, it makes financial sense to more than double the cost of season tickets for low paid shop workers even though this leads to less than a quarter of tickets being renewed, lower income for the council and more cars parked on residential streets.

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