Another small but significant step to further parking charges in Harrogate

26 May 2016

The question of additional parking charges has once again been put before the North Yorkshire County Council Area Committee. This is the forum that meet every three months and is made up of the elected county councillors.

In November 2015, the Area Committee voted against the proposal, but agreed a deferral of any changes.

During the meeting the Committee voted on the following:

Sunday parking charges would be introduced between 10am and 6pm; and Monday to Saturday daytime parking charges would be extended to 7pm. (There would be no charge to park either after 7pm Monday to Saturday or after 6pm on Sunday.) – 14 against, 0 for and 1 abstention

Support the evening proposals only – 14 against, 0 for and 1 abstention

Support the Sunday proposals only – 14 against, 0 for and 1 abstention

Support no changes at present, but accept Harrogate Borough Council’s suggestion to agree a joint approach to both on and off street parking in Harrogate town in early 2016 which is evidence based, consistent with sound traffic management principles and best practice guidelines, recognising the needs and amenities of the locality and the costs of the provision of parking services – 13 for, 1 against and 1 abstention

Don Mackenzie elected to abstain due to his involvement with the proposals.

The November meeting was attended by dozens of members of the public, many who read out letters all protesting against the proposed charges.

At today’s meeting (25 May 2016), Councillor David Simister put questions before the committee on the progress that is being made.

Cllr Simister questioned:

  • Who has been consulted post the November meeting ?
  • What does the data reveal and when do we get to examine it ?
  • If it’s not about revenue raising for NYCC who is it meant to benefit ?
  • Why is NYCC going against the collective view – and vote – of local members and the vast majority of people opposed to it. These include business owners, shop workers, church groups, youth groups, shoppers etc ?

Cllr Don Mackenzie, the Councillor with responsibility for Highways responded to the questions.

Cllr Mackenzie said:

  • That the proposal for Sunday and evening parking charges was always going to come back to the North Yorkshire County Council Executive for decision, and that has not changed
  • Have never said that we would introduce charges
  • Surveys have taken place during April 2016 and it shows strong evidence that streets are fully parked up on a Sunday
  • Survey reports will be published well ahead the Executive decision being made
  • It is wrong to say that there has not been further consultation
  • The public will be kept informed

Cllr Richard Cooper said:

  • It will be a sad day when we base our decisions around newspaper news item. (This followed Cllr Harrison’s comments that news items may or may not be accurate of course)
  • Good reasons are better than numbers and indicated that a volume of signatures against parking was irrelevant as he had seen campaigns in the past such as a pub with 700 signatures to keep it open, yet nobody used the pub
  • NYCC said that they would consult with HBC and that is what they have done
  • It is down to local businesses to evidence how introduction of Sunday parking would damage their businesses. He said that businesses should show how much per hour they make on a Sunday versus a Saturday. They needed to demonstrate that it would lead to less trade per hour.
  • He called for less politics and more facts

Cllr Harrison, as meeting chair, reminded the committee that they were consultees and did not have a vote in the final say.

Mike Pywell, campaigning against the introduction of parking charges, commented on the meeting:

Our county council aren’t living in the real world if they don’t think parking charges make a difference. How many customers would Asda or Waitrose lose if they started to charge customers to park? Supermarkets use loss leaders to drive people in, Waitrose give their customers a free coffee and a daily paper. Why? Because it encourages people to go into their stores and while they are there they spend money. There is no difference with our town centre, and that is why we need to take a creative approach to parking in our town. If Amazon the worlds biggest retailer is now delivering free of charge to millions of Prime Customers we need to move on from the 1990’s and take a more strategic approach to our assets.

With all the new shops and restaurants coming into town we should be doing all we can to attract more customers, not look at ways to deter them. We accept we need parking controls, it doesn’t make sense that people can leave their cars all day Sunday, but as Councillor MacKenzie says as this is not about revenue, disc free parking would be the perfect solution. I doesn’t penalise people going to church, doesn’t force hotel guests out their beds and doesn’t deter shoppers. We already have wardens working on a Sunday and any extra costs could be covered by fines.

As for their comments about disregarding petitions I find that totally arrogant. If they are not going to listen to their constituents how are we supposed to be heard? And to compare 700 people petitioning to keep a pub open that no-one goes to and 2,000 people petitioning for a bus that is only used by 3 people to the future of our town centre is beyond belief. I’m sorry but if online petitions are the only way we can be heard then bring them on and then we do discuss the real issue give us commercial arguments that stack up.

It’s ludicrous to suggest that it is up to the retailers to prove that trade is lost by parking charges. This isn’t about trade that’s lost we should be looking for ways to increase trade and Free Disc Parking on Sundays is something we can market and people will talk about. Driving more people into town on a Sunday, will help business, and as long as operating costs are covered that’s all NYCC should be concerned about. If its more than that, then its obviously about revenue, which they have categorically denied at every opportunity. This is a great opportunity for NYCC to show they are actually listening, and if they do we will applaud them.

No other Councillors spoke for or against the introduction of further parking charges.

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