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Petition against car parking changes

Times Echo and Life / All News / Petition against car parking changes
5 months, 22 days ago1 Comment.
17 FEB

Petition against car parking changes

By timesecholife on in All News, Leek news

More than 2,200 people have signed a petition against car parking changes set for a Moorlands town. The changes for the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) run car parks in Leek include increasing car parking fees, as well as increasing the charging times from between 9.30am-3.30pm, to 8am until 6pm instead.

More than 2,200 people have signed a petition against car parking changes set for a Moorlands town.

The changes for the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) run car parks in Leek include increasing car parking fees, as well as increasing the charging times from between 9.30am-3.30pm, to 8am until 6pm instead.

The petition has been started by Leek resident Helen Bridgett. At the time of going to print yesterday (Tuesday, February 15) there was a total of 2,223 signatures on the online petition.

Helen told the Leek & Moorlands Echo: “After discovering Leek SMDC planned changes to parking fees and abolition of free parking after 3.30pm, I decided to increase awareness by creating a petition.

In just five hours over 250 people have decided to sign.

The changes represent an unpopular move and yet another challenge to traders who are already struggling.

It is also a slap in the face for the many people who repeatedly visit Leek more than once a week and time their visit to take full advantage of existing free parking.

If such stalwarts face a weekly increase of £2.40 in their spending in Leek they may well decide not to bother.

The frequent afternoon visitor has been especially targeted, as is a person intending to stay a good few hours.”

Helen added: “This is completely undemocratic revenue building founded on an idea for which the consultation seems to be sadly lacking, again.

A team of consultants has been employed during Covid and the results based on this ‘research’ which has also been funded out of the ratepayers’ pocket.

The council leaders appear to want to punish people who shop in Leek in every way they can.

The markets are threatened already and now parking is to become a very hot potato indeed.

It is time that SMDC’s cabinet realised that the people are really sick of such initiatives.

They receive no reward for trading and shopping in this ancient market town, and say this is yet another nail in Leek’s coffin.”
The local Labour party has also stated that they oppose the car parking changes set to come into force in Leek.

In a press statement, councillor Mike Gledhill, leader of the SMDC Labour Group, said: “Here is the reality of how final decisions are made at SMDC.

The Conservatives and their allies control the council with 31 votes out of 56, with the majority of their councillors representing villages.

The cabinet, which has no Leek representatives, is now about to implement significant changes in 2022 for residents to use council owned town car parks, based on recommendations from consultants.

The Labour Group urges the cabinet to think again with over 2,000 people raising objections in a petition in the last few days and makes these comments:

Parking charges have remained unchanged for four years now, so it is not unrealistic that some price increases would have been recommended, though it is extremely tough for people to accept these in a year of tax rises, fuel and food poverty and business recovery.

A more modest increase of, for example, 10p per hour would have shown more respect for people at this difficult time.”

Cllr Gledhill continued: “In Leek, the increase in hours where payment is required from 8am – 6pm will cause real difficulties if customers who use the current free time before 9.30am and after 3.30pm stop using our shops.

It is no surprise that businesses are understandably worried about this, after the difficulties of the last two years.

The concept of the ‘free half hour’ anytime from 8am to 6pm is controversial. It will apply to car parks in Smithfield, High Street and others further away from the town centre but not to Silk St., Market Place, Market Street, Brook Street, Queen Street and Regent Street, which have been designated as ‘prime’ car parks. The consultants believe this will lessen congestion in the town centre at busy times as drivers opt for the free half hour further away. It is clear from the views heard since the proposals were published that this restriction is deeply unpopular with residents and with businesses close to these ‘prime’ car parks. Again, this seems to be far too comprehensive a change to bring in at this difficult time.”

Cllr Gledhill added: “The Labour Group has already campaigned to get a guarantee that any changes will be reviewed after the first year to assess the effect on businesses and residents. We are pleased that this has been accepted, after it was not included in the original proposals.

Even at this late stage, we urge The Cabinet to think again about Leek. It would be best for our people and businesses to delay for 12 months the changes in chargeable hours and the ‘free half hour’ concept to allow the recovery to bed in and give people more time to adjust. There are ways of compensating for any possible loss of revenue in the budget from within the Car Parking proposals themselves and, if necessary, from reserves.

If the changes are forced through, the review must report in April 2023. This would be just before the next local elections. People will then be able to determine the success or failure of the changes and cast their votes accordingly.”

The Leek & Moorlands Echo contacted SMDC for a response to both the online petition and to the local Labour Party’s concerns over the car parking changes in Leek.

In response, councillor Andrew Hart, Cabinet member for Property and Tourism at SMDC said: “The council carried out wide consultation with a variety of individuals and groups last year as part of its review of the parking strategy and the measures to be introduced reflect the need to balance a number of elements to ensure our facilities are modernised and reflect what people told us during the consultation.

For the first time, the council will be introducing free parking periods at certain car parks to support short trips into town centres.

Other improvements including increasing the options for payment to offer digital payment options as well as cash and reviewing permits so they are better suited to customer needs.”

Cllr Hart added: “These improvements come at a cost. The council does not make profit from the charges – the money is used to improve the facilities for the benefit of our residents, businesses and visitors.

The tariffs for charging will be considered by the full Council at the budget setting meeting on 23 February and, if agreed, it will be the first time in four years that parking charges have changed.”

Leader of SMDC, councillor Sybil Ralphs added: “The proposed car parking policy has been under discussion for weeks.

“We made absolutely sure that it went through the whole scrutiny process, where debate could take place, questions could be asked, and criticism expressed by any member; in addition it was also presented at a Cabinet meeting.

“There were no concerns raised by the Labour Group members at any time during the whole of the scrutiny process.

“People only need to play back the webcast of the relevant meetings to hear the debate and the  comments raised by other Groups. Objections were not raised in meetings or by personal contact via email or telephone to the Leader of SMDC or any member of Cabinet by the Leek Labour Councillors, their Leader, or indeed by any Labour members from Biddulph.

“The Cheadle councillors asked for the existing free parking times in Cheadle, ie before 9.30am and after 3pm to be retained, and we agreed to this request and made the appropriate adjustment.

“No such request was made by the Leek Labour members to apply the same criteria to Leek.

“It is rather late in the day for them to raise objections now but perhaps they have had a knee jerk reaction to the petition?”

Cllr Ralphs added: “A further point I would make is that the Labour Leader says that they asked for a review of the policy after 12 months; that is not true. It was Cabinet who made the offer of a review of the policy after 12 months: a review that will cover all three towns, including Leek.

“Free parking periods are being offered in certain car parks in Leek to reduce congestion in the town centre and to make best use of capacity. The Labour Group either don’t understand this or choose not to for their own political reasons.

One only has to read their politically motivated and hurriedly put together diatribe, to realise that their election campaign for Leek 2023 has started somewhat early.”

Helen’s petition can be viewed and signed at https://www.change.org/p/leek-residents-smdc-smdc-scrapped-leek-free-parking-15-30; while the Facebook page Helen has set up about the debate can be found at https://www.facebook.com/Leek-Parking—114135887854132.

Community response

There has been lots of comments online about the proposed parking changes for Leek. Here are some which have been left as ‘reasons for signing’ on the public online petition page and/or in response to our post about the matter on our Leek & Moorlands Echo Facebook page:

Heather Smith: It will cause more parking problems in the streets near to the town centre.

Gwyn Higginson: Affects restaurant business and others too, already had big hit. Leek has great small shops. Don’t do this.

David Shenton: Free parking after 3.30pm is essential to reduce street parking and allow the town to continue to grow, supply and demand does not show parking congestion.

Philippa Barnett: People need to be encouraged to come into Leek, not put off by rising parking charges otherwise it will be ‘ghost town.’

Lisa McNamara: We need to encourage people to come to Leek not put them off.

Rachel Williams: It’s a disgrace to charge people so much to park. I thought they wanted people to come into the town not scare them away.

Paul Bedford: Because I visit Leek regularly through the week and find the free late afternoon parking helps businesses because folks will be more likely to visit. Taking this away would be terrible for the local businesses.

Carol Mack: The council haven’t thought this through, we need more footfall in our lovely town, this will keep people away.

Tim Mawson: Seems to be no benefit to local businesses or residents. Seem to be a total money making exercise, which if you discourage customers will just loose money for town. Also who was consulted?

Katie Hodgkinson: I’m signing because a struggling town centre, recovering from the pandemic shouldn’t have to put up with anymore of this money grabbing.

Anne Halfpenny: The shops need the help. All this is doing is making people go to retail parks where the parking is free.

Pat Sutton: I’m sure it will have a great impact on the town – increased prices and reduced free time is a double blow. Leek has always had reasonable priced, car parking charges, which I’d like to think helps the shops. Please reconsider this.

Pauline Felstead: Totally against this shortsighted action by the council. So many people come after 3.30pm to avoid charges. You are constantly looking at the time to ensure you don’t go over the parking times. It doesn’t encourage people to stay in the town. While we’re on the subject, these machines don’t give change, which is a form of thieving. Don’t get me started on the lack of public transport.

Brian Newton: Newtons third law – To every action there is an equal opposite reaction. Put the price up. People vote with their feet and go elsewhere. Me thinks SMDC are following Stoke on Trent Council. We’ve got no shoppers. Let’s improve the parking. Stable door and horse springs to mind. Muppet show. The choice is yours: 1. Go to town and get charged for parking. 2. Go to out of town shopping free parking.

Diane Holland: It will kill the town and what about the people that work in Leek and have to pay to park.

Karen Landon: People will just shop at the big supermarkets where parking is free then. You can take your time without worrying about the time.

Diane Jaggers: It will soon be more cost effective to drive to Festival Park.

Emma Louise Horsley: This council have no clue. Empty shops and car park rises. No one will come here.

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1 Comment

  • To add to my previous post, we were in Newcastle, Staffs the other day and the car park we stopped at, has a £1 parking charge after 13.00! If the Staffordshire Moorlands car parks did this, it might encourage people to visit and stay in the town!
    Written by Pauline Felstead, February 17, 2022 - Reply

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