Growing sense of Outrage at Wiltshire's Parking Charge proposals, particularly the 80%+ increase for some Permits
A growing sense of realisation and subsequent concern tinged with anger about Wiltshire's plans to increase parking charges, particularly those for Parking Permits is taking hold across Marlborough. The Council's plans are buried within their currently live online 'parking charges consultation' as 'options', with the alternative choices being primarily cuts to public transport or 'other highway services' funding.
High Street resident John Ford, horrified at the proposal to raise the price of an annual Parking Permit by more than 80% from £394 to £720, is making sure that this is known across the town and not kept 'hidden' in the online survey. He is handing out the above flyer to all local businesses and as many people in the area as possible so that people can express their opinion and put pressure on the Council's decision makers to think again.
It's not just about Permit charges, general parking costs are also likely to increase, Sunday and Public Holiday charging will also be introduced and the Town Council will not be allowed to enable free event parking during November and December. Marlborough, already an expensive and difficult place in which to park, will become even more expensive and less attractive to visitors to the town and as a hub for residents living in the surrounding villages.
The consultation can be accessed by clicking here. Wiltshire Council's proposals set out to link parking charges to public transport funding (see '‘Inflationary’ increase in car park charges as from next August, with consultation due regarding other proposed charge increases'), and this consulation sets out to let the public indicate whether they would accept more expensive parking at the cost of reduced public transport, or vice versa. Not quite a scenario of 'hobson's choice', but two unnatractive options based on decisions already made.
The Permit cost increase is based on an attempt to link the charge for these to the standard charge, by effectively making the cost of annual permit '50% of the normal parking charge'. This assumes that to gain the stated discount, each car would have to be parked permamently within the zone throughout the applicable time period. In practice this doesn't happen - cars do get used - so this nominal 'discount' is an illusion.
Marlborough has a real parking problem. Residents are all aware of that, but its existence was confirmed and extent of which was established in a recent extensive study, findings of which were presented recently (16 October) at the Town Hall by Mike King of external consultancy 'People and Places' (see 'Evidence proves that Marlborough does have a parking problem - now this can be addressed'). This survey was carried out as part of the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan (MANP) process, and the steering group of which is now examining a range of possibilities to alleviate the problem. But this doesn't touch on the cost of parking which is the responsibility of Wiltshire Council who has launched the public consultation
In addition to producing and distributing the flyer John Ford has attempted contact with Bridget Wayman, Wiltshire Council's Cabinet Member for Highways Transport and Waste, questionning key aspects of their proposals whilst making alternative suggestions regarding parking provision and a less draconian charging structure. The concerns he raised go beyond just the cost of parking, centering on Wiltshire's attitude towards Marlborough: 'With the population growing and growing and the council raking in extra revenue from new builds - the services are getting worse and worse".
John is not alone in being very concerned about these proposals. At the Town Hall meeting mentioned above, Town Mayor Mervyn Hall, also chair of the MANP steering group expressed his misgivings about what Wiltshire Council are intending to impose: "Some of the things they are suggesting I find quite excessive. A 50 per cent increase in the cost of annual permits for example and charging for parking on Sundays so please take part in that survery and make your feelings known."
Permit user 'Debby M', also likely to experience this additonal cost burden expresses a view that "it's reasonable if regrettable that fees should rise over time, but increasing the charge by nearly 80 per cent in one fell swoop, penalising people who work in the town, seems like a cynical attempt to make up a shortfall caused by (one can only assume) bad planning and management."
Many residents, workers and business people from the town have indicated that they will make their feelings known to their Councillors, Cllr Bridget Wayman and Devizes constituency MP Claire Perry as suggested by John Ford's flyer.
Bob Holman of The Food Gallery in his e-mail to Cllr Wayman points out: "An 82% increase is bordering on profiteering." "And for those staff that live in outlying villages, with a now much reduced bus service - again brought about by Wiltshire Council - the future now looks very bleak".
Roy Bhatia, who drives into town daily to work, states: "I, along with the rest of Marlborough workforce, am outraged to see the disproportionate rise in the parking permits in the town." "We hold a permit to enable us as workers in Marlborough to park daily without a fuss. We would not be able to afford to renew our permit should this new charge receive approval. Fair parking prices for workers and business owners who contribute to the footfall should be available, it is not unreasonable to suggest any increase in fees be gradually phased in."
The first stage is to take part in the online consultation, but beyond that it is to question the options presented within the consultation and decisions made behind that view into public opinion - and ask: should parking charges be linked to public transport subsidy? Either way, against the background of inadequate parking provision and public transport infrastructure which has already experienced significant cuts, the town and its community will be the poorer, unless an alternative and more positive approach is adopted.
The Wiltshire Council consultation on parking charges is on the agenda for the Monday evening (October 30) meeting of the Town Council’s Planning Committee.
There are plenty of voices from the town advocating a different and potentially more appropriate way forward to that decreed by the County Council, but will Wiltshire listen?