Town Council's robust letter to Wiltshire Council on their parking consultation
At the Marlborough Town Council planning committee meeting on Monday (November 20), town councillors had before them a letter drafted by the Town Clerk, Mrs Shelley Parker, to Adrian Hampton, Wiltshire Council's Head of Local Highways, about their consultation on raising parking charges - which ends this Thursday.
Councillors agreed that some extra points arising from questions raised at the meeting's public question time [see below] should be added. With those additions the letter was sent off this morning (November 21).
The two-page letter explains that councillors wish to make points that could not be included in the restrictive online format the consultation uses.
The main thrust of Wiltshire Council's consultation is that higher charges are needed to support public transport - especially subsidies to rural bus routes. The town council's letter says that with some of the highest parking charges in the county, this area has still seen reductions in bus services:
"This feels like being penalised through lack of investment in the town, more especially so when it's clear that other towns have received significant investment in new facilities - Corsham (a campus), Melksham (a campus), Malmesbury (a Community centre), etc."
The letter emphasises that the Town Council has done its best to publicise the consultation - but Wiltshire Council has not done so: "There were no posters displayed or notices on ticket machines. Season ticket holders were not separately notified nor were those registered for automated cashless parking sent texts encouraging them to take part. So, no real effort made to reach everyone affected."
This letter makes a strong point about the question of the consultation process' legality. It states that the lack of publicity may well not follow the clear rules for such consultations laid down in a Supreme Court judgment.
The letter then quotes two findings of the parking survey done for Marlborough's Neighbourhood Plan process - both listed under the negative perception of car park pricing: "Qualitative feedback from businesses and town centre users highlighted the need to reduce the cost of parking".
And secondly: "71 per cent of town centre users rated car parking as a negative aspect of Marlborough, nearly double the National Small Towns average."
The letter continues by commenting on each of the Options on the Consultation website. It is clear that parking fees are used to some extent to subsidise bus routes, but the letter asks what the "other highways services" are that Wiltshire Council says it also funds from parking charges.
The letter states baldly that there is no support in the town for the introduction of charges on Sundays and Bank Holidays. And it warns the Council that removing free parking days during November and December would kill off Marlborough Christmas Lights switch-on celebrations and also the Rotary Club's Christmas Tree - simply by making them both unaffordable.
The letter criticises the proposed rise of up to 82 per cent in season ticket charges: "This would be unaffordable to residents, workers and businesses".
And under Wiltshire Council's request that those undertaking the parking consultations provide 'alternative ways to find the local community', the letter points out the loss of revenue through ticket machines being out of order and it calls for "Better overall enforcement of parking...Sometimes Enforcement Officers are not seen in Marlborough for several days."
The Planning committee's Chairman, Councillor Alexander Kirk Wilson had congratulated the Town Clerk on her 'admirable' letter. And Councillor Loosmore had called for a parking solution that was not a 'one box fits all' exercise: "It doesn't fit Marlborough - Marlborough needs a different solution."
At the start of the meeting there had been three questions from the public on parking:
Former Councillor Richard Allen pointed out that higher charges would mean more people parking illegally - blocking entrances to homes, parking on pavements and being a danger to the public.
John Ford, who lives in the High Street, raised the legality of the consultation in view of the poor publicity by Wiltshire Council. "It should", he said, "be declared null and void."
Peter Morgan, who lives in Manton, suggested that while the playground on Coopers Meadow should be refurbished - his children, he said, had enjoyed using it - the rest of the meadow should be made into a car park as an extension of the George Lane car park.
This, he said, would allow the town's bus services to be based there rather than in the High Street - avoiding a major source of pollution for people using the High Street.
There was no comment on this suggestion. But when it came to a vote on whether to send the Town Clerk's letter to Wiltshire Council all members of the committee who were present voted in favour.
The full text of the letter has now been posted on Marlborough Town Council's website.