A leading business group has praised Cornwall Councillors for their approach to the difficult issue of parking charges.
Last April, the local authority car parks previously controlled by the six district councils, became the responsibility of Cornwall Council. The Parking Advisory Panel was established to consider how to bring the six different approaches into line, as well as a number of issues regarding parking across Cornwall.
Some local businesses had expressed concern that Cornwall Council would use the review as an opportunity to generate more revenue at the expense of town centres. Members of the Cornwall Chamber Forum, a group of business organisations from across Cornwall coordinated by the Cornwall Chamber of Commerce, have followed the meetings as observers with a view to lobbying for restraint. However they have been impressed by the approach taken by the panel.
“It is clear that there are a series of difficult decisions to be made” said Richard Glover, chief executive of the Cornwall Chamber. “It is also clear that members of the Council recognise the significance of the issues they are debating. On many occasions it was pointed out that parking was more than a discussion about revenue. It is evident that everyone involved recognises that the viability of town centres and the implementation of environmental policies are also very closely linked to this. I have to confess that we have been impressed with the approach taken.”
Encouraged by input from the Forum, panel members took the view that a wholesale review of off-street parking charges would take time. This led to a proposal for a simple increase to existing charges while further research and consultation takes place.
As a result of feedback the panel has proposed an important amendment to that proposal. In recognition that there are anomalies in the current system and as a kind of “statement of intent” regarding the need to support our key market towns the proposed amendment freezes the first hour of charges at current rates.
The decision was to recommend to Cabinet that throughout the Duchy, the charge for the first hour (or half hour where that exists) is frozen at the 2009/10 levels. All the other rates will go up by the proposed amount.
“More than the actual value represented in the frozen charges themselves, this proposal demonstrates the intent to help support and develop our town centres,” said Glover. “The final decision will be taken by full Cabinet on February 10, so this is not policy just yet. However I think this shows that members are listening, they recognise the issues and that they are keen to be flexible. This is a good start.”