The announcement on parking charges this week is a massive victory which will be welcomed by all the community. The change is in response to my campaign and the pressure of the local community on the need to provide more support for our high streets, to which the council and government have listened.
Tackling our local parking problems has always been one of my top local priorities. I have campaigned on parking prices since before I was elected and my first PMQ was on support for market towns. I have called on the government in an adjournment debate and other debates to produce a strategy for market towns and high streets. I have lobbied the Chancellor and James Brokenshire, Secretary of State responsible for local government for more investment. James acknowledged this, stating: “I know Michelle is a strong campaigner on behalf of her constituents. She has proven an effective advocate, sticking up for shops and small business and making the case for additional investment into local high streets.”
I challenged the council’s proposed introduction of parking charges on Sundays at every step – with questions in the House of Commons to Ministers and a few months ago I even held a debate on the very subject. I have met the leader of the council and Cabinet members several times since the announcement, as well as encouraging local residents to write to them personally.
This hard work has paid off and I am delighted that the council has seen sense. Not only has it halted the introduction of Sunday and bank holiday charges, but they are also utilising the money dedicated in the budget by the government to support the high street in our local market towns with £8 million.
The changes would have affected all of our market towns negatively, hence why I have worked hard and acted as a local champion and put pressure on the council to reverse the decision. I also argued that it would have been a ‘tax on worship’, given the vast majority of Wiltshire’s town churches do not have parking facilities, meaning the change would have made it harder for people to go to church from a financial perspective.
The proposals would have damaged our high streets and driven away businesses. Instead the Council is now investing to regenerate our high streets – a massive win for our communities. We do also have a massive on-street parking problem exacerbated by the lack of parking spaces. Rest assured I shall continue to work at all levels to ensure that the second part of the problem is fixed by ensuring we increase our parking provision.