Parking enforcement officers are returning to monitor car parks in Cheadle and across the Moorlands as lockdown restrictions ease. Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) retained parking charges throughout the lock down, although enforcement officers were not deployed to patrol car parks. The decision caused some concern over potential spread of the virus through people using pay machines on car parks. Many councils made parking free for people to undertake essential journeys quickly, with pay machines covered to discourage anyone touching them.
Parking enforcement officers are returning to monitor car parks in Cheadle and across the Moorlands as lockdown restrictions ease.
Staffordshire Moorlands District Council (SMDC) retained parking charges throughout the lock down, although enforcement officers were not deployed to patrol car parks.
The decision caused some concern over potential spread of the virus through people using pay machines on car parks.
Many councils made parking free for people to undertake essential journeys quickly, with pay machines covered to discourage anyone touching them.
SMDC kept parking charges in place during the lockdown to “discourage social gatherings.”
The decision was not a popular one among townsfolk in Cheadle and many queried why charges had previously been increased if there was evidence paying to park would prevent people gathering in the town centre.
Stunner reader Paul Keeling commented on the story which we posted on Facebook. He said: “So the council are aware that paying for car parking discourages people from coming to Cheadle town centre.
“Which means car parking charges have a negative impact on the number of paying customers using the shops in Cheadle, contributing to more empty shops in our town.”
Gary Eastell also commented online: “On Government Q&A the other day they said councils have been given money to cover the cost of having to stop carpark charges.
“Does that mean the council are risking people’s lives for a few extra pounds and pocketing the money from the government?”
Councils across the country have been awarded grant funding to help cover the financial implications of the pandemic and a nationwide parking permit scheme for NHS staff and key workers has also been put in place, which SMDC have supported.
Now, the parking enforcement officers have returned and charges will be enforced.
Cheadle Town Council member, Jamie Evans, has written to SMDC urging the charges to be suspended.
He said: “As you can imagine lots of people and local councillors are concerned by this especially when I have witnessed people paying and touching the machines yet SMDC have not provided any PPE for people to use afterwards or wipe down the machines.
“Cheadle car park is essential to the town centre with access to two pharmacies, the main post office and also three shops ideal for essential supplies during this pandemic.
“I’m asking that this decision is reversed ASAP and car parking machines are taken off line for the foreseeable future and free parking given as an essential to the town.”
He also suggests, in his letter to SMDC, that funds from parking charges during the pandemic could be donated to charities and food banks or an equivalent time of free parking be put in place to encourage people to use local businesses as restrictions lift further, allowing more shops to open.
A spokesperson for Staffordshire Moorlands District Council said: “There has not been a specific grant to cover the costs of suspending car parking charges.
“The Government funding awarded to councils is the general emergency allocation to recognise the significant financial implications that the Covid-19 pandemic has had on the council’s finances – of which the loss of car parking fees is just a small part.
“The grant will go towards meeting part of the overall costs to the council of responding to the emergency but not all.”
The spokesman added: “Following the Government’s easing of restrictions we will be reinstating enforcement at our car parks this week to support our partners in discouraging large gatherings and to reinforce the guidance that contact with others outside your household should be minimised and social distancing measures still need to be adhered to.”
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