This week I held a debate in Parliament on parking charges and Wiltshire Council’s proposal to increase parking permits by up to 145% and introduce Sunday and Bank holiday parking charges. I also called on the Government to publish best practice on parking to assist and encourage councils to listen to the stack of evidence nationally which highlights the success of making sure that prices are set appropriately as well as ensuring that there are enough spaces in each area.
Watch the speech in full and please email Baroness Scott firstname.lastname@example.org and ask her to think again about this proposal.
I oppose the implementation of the proposal ANYWHERE in the constituency but believe that they will have the most acute impact in Chippenham town. Chippenham now has on average the highest parking charges across Wiltshire and suffers from a severe lack of spaces to cater for the need (as Salisbury has a temporary parking charge change but Chippenham is still the most expensive market town).
I have no say over parking but can act as a local champion and put pressure on the Council to reverse the decision. This is extremely serious and would mean job losses for local people as businesses are saying they would leave the area.
The current proposals would kill of our high streets and drive businesses out of our towns. This is not just what I predict will happen but what the local business community have told me will happen! For example in Chippenham alone, Alliance Pharma and Little Waitrose have said that they would leave and Mander Duffill and Good Energy have said in the long run they could have to consider doing the same. It is important to remember that a number of companies locally pay the permits for their employees so these increases would have to be paid by them, making it simply too expensive to be based locally. In addition the staff of these businesses spend money at lunch and in the evening so retail, bars and restaurants would also suffer if they leave and they will be hit hard by the Sunday and Bank Holiday policy especially the independents.
I do have serious concerns about how the recent consultation was conducted, as very few residents and businesses seem to have been aware that it was even taking place. Key stakeholders such as the BID, Chambers of Commerce and the FSB only found out towards the end of the consultation window and had not been notified or engaged with direct. There are notices in small print on the parking metres but if you have a permit you would not be using a parking metre.
We currently have little choice but to use a car to shop or work and we cannot alter the pricing again without the infrastructure changes such as cycle routes.
Chippenham’s car parks in particular are regularly at high occupancy and this is a common argument used to defend the prices. However these are simply two separate problems and a much more lucrative plan would be to double deck a car park – providing more spaces which would bring in more revenue without driving businesses out of town. In fact it offers part of the answer to raising more money – i.e. increasing the number of spaces not pricing.
We are also creating a massive on street parking problem around the constituency with the charges and availability of spaces – something my office fields complaints about each week.
I do fully appreciate that the Council uses parking revenue to subsidise rural bus services. I am not thinking for one moment that we should take away these valuable bus services that act as lifelines. However damaging our high street to pay for these services is not the answer. I have long argued for the Council to look at smarter and more sustainable models like regional bus contracts to fulfil these needs rather than rely on parking revenue, which isn’t working given a number of services are being ceased every year. The Sunday and bank holiday charges are expected to raise only £78,000 across Wiltshire – which will not save all our bus services in the long run but may kill off our town centres. I know the response to topic may be that local government financing has forced the decision but the key point is that starving towns of customers and encouraging business to leave only serves to reduce the business rates pot and thus does not make any financial sense.
On another note I do not think it is right to introduce Sunday parking charges anywhere – given that the vast majority of Wiltshire’s town churches do not have parking facilities. This change will make it harder for people to go to church from a financial perspective and cannot be dressed up as anything but a tax on worship.
I will not sit by whilst businesses are forced to leave our town which as I have stressed will reduce the business rate pot and therefore reduce not increase the money our Council has. I urge you to email to Baroness Scott email@example.com and ask her to think again about this proposal to increase season tickets and charges on Sundays and Bank Holidays.