Some views about Car Parking charges (which I expressed in private) were (kindly!!) leaked to the Cambs Times today. So I thought it was important that I provided an update and some clarity.
Firstly the fact that this issue was being debated at Fenland’s Cabinet meeting yesterday slipped my mind last night - and it meant I misled a few people on Twitter. For that I apologise and thank John Elworthy for setting me straight. I also had the expectation that only Wisbech and March were on the radar - but a last minute amendment at Cabinet (that I had absolutely no advance warning of) meant that is no longer the case and Whittlesey is now part of the proposal.
Civil Parking Enforcement is a way of providing enforcement of parking offences through charging for on-street parking -( i.e. such as along Market Street), however, it cannot and will not work without the use of off street charging (i.e. it has to include Car Parks) and, if the charging regime is right, Fenland could make a profit out of it - something that is an important part of the debate given that we face serious financial challenges in the near future. But, to me, the important point is the word Enforcement. In my opinion Whittlesey does not have serious enforcement issues. Moreover, there is the possibility for CPE to provide some minimal support to areas like ours without a charging regime. Police Officers will also retain the right to issue tickets in certain circumstances.
So, from where I sit, no serious enforcement issues, no need for CPE or the Car Parking charges that go along with it. When CPE was discussed at the County Council I pushed this point of view that there should be flexibility in the scheme so that those Towns/Districts that didn’t want or need CPE had the ability not to introduce it.
The reason I am fundamentally opposed to general car parking charges is because of Whittlesey’s unique position in Fenland. It’s proximity to Peterborough (and especially to Hampton) mean that it has to find ways of standing out and selling the things that are unique about it in order to preserve our Town centre. We need to build on our USPs not get rid of them, otherwise, we might as well just put “Please shop at Hampton” signs on our roundabouts.
There are other things that are worthy of discussion - but they are NOT related to CPE. We do sometimes suffer from lack of parking space because of the number of people that park in Town all day and take the bus into Peterborough. That lack of space deters some people from coming into Town. One answer to that could be (could be) to introduce car parking charges after 2 or 3 hours. But at the moment there are too many unanswered questions to even consider moving towards this, such as:
- How would this impact on the side streets close to the Town - such as London Street, High Causeway, Gracious Street. I know some of the residents in those areas are interested in a residents parking scheme - but we don’t know how universal that wish is (this issue wrt parking in side streets is true of all parking charges).
- How would the New Queen Street Surgery car park fit into the equation?
I am also pretty sure that CPE will not be affordable with a charging scheme that only makes money from people who park for longer than two hours and therefore that CPE is not the appropriate way of bringing this issue forwards. I am willing to be proven wrong on this - but I don’t think I will be.
But, above all we need to have a better idea about the impact of any charging regime on the Town Centre.
I know there are loads of people in Whittlesey who have strong views about this - please, please let me know what they are - whether they support Car Parking charges or not. This decision has now been called in by our scrutiny committee and the better informed I am about the views of Whittlesey people the better I will be able to represent them at that meeting.