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U-turn on car parking changes

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U-turn on car parking changes

By timesecholife on in All News, Leek news

A council has made a u-turn on proposed car parking changes for a Moorlands town. Staffordshire Moorlands District Council had, as part of its latest Car Parking Strategy, set to increase the car parking hours on its car parks in Leek.

A council has made a u-turn on proposed car parking changes for a Moorlands town.

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council had, as part of its latest Car Parking Strategy, set to increase the car parking hours on its car parks in Leek.

The charging hours had set to change from 9.30am-3.30pm to 8am-6pm. However, that was until a petition was signed by more than 4,500 people against the changes.

The u-turn was made at last week’s SMDC Full Council meeting, which saw the public gallery in the Moorlands House Council Chambers in Leek full of members of public against the changes.

Helen Bridgett, who started both the online and hard copy petition against the car parking changes in Leek, said: “Due to the extremely poor quality of the Parking Matters consultancy reporting I decided to instigate an online petition which gained over 2,500 signatures.

In case the online petition was disallowed I received assistance in distributing a paper petition to the majority of traders in Leek.

We couldn’t get to every trader but distributed over 120 petition packs and in just a very few days we collected over 2,000 signatures. So over 4,500 signed.”

Helen continued: “What we learnt in personally visiting the majority of Leek traders was that only one person stated they had been consulted.

The rest most strongly protested that they had received no consultation at all. They said that they felt isolated from the process and that they considered the whole matter had been kept from them.

Traders felt that while they had done their best to remain in business during Covid and were now prepared to return to a new normal, the car park strategy was a draconian slap in the face.

There was intense anger amongst traders, especially regarding the abolition of free parking in the morning and afternoon. Traders said that they know of customers who regularly would use these free periods to shop. They commented that the mooted free half hour was going to be next to useless.”

Helen continued: The consultation undertaken for SMDC and the report produced from the consultancy’s findings is so poor that it is unfit for purpose. If SMDC really wants to make economies then the consultancy fee should be returned, it would be a good place to start.
I sought a professional opinion on the questionnaire and analysis. I received this comment: “Basically in this report the most valuable data is derived from the free text comments and there’s an overwhelming amount of that. Suggesting that the fixed questions asked did not allow people to actually say what they wanted to say. Therefore pushing their desired feedback into the free text comment sections. It seems they’ve not considered the key findings at all. And without both qualitative and quantitative data it’s really just noise.”
I emailed three SMDC cabinet members to ask questions about the quality of the research. I received a one-line no comment response from two of them, but no reply at all from the author of SMDC report. Although I know that he has discussed it with several gentlemen of my acquaintance.
One instance of the poor quality of the report has been questioned by several Leek locals; how can free parking be both a less frequently suggested proposal whilst simultaneously being the most common suggestion?”

Helen added: “I am glad that the free parking periods are now to be retained. The morning free parking is of value to many people, but equally the afternoon free parking is really essential too.

What has come to light, due to this process, is that many Leek side-streets are home to residents who have no parking at all or are affected by restrictive parking conditions.

Some residents depend on the afternoon and morning free periods simply to run their lives. It has been pointed out that this is one of the reasons for creating those concessions in the first place.
“We are informed that more discussions will take place at the Community Overview and Scrutiny Panel on Monday,March 7 and at the Service Delivery Overview & Scrutiny Panel Wednesday March 16.”

Meanwhile, councillor Mike Gledhill, leader of opposition party at SMDC, said: “It was good to see the SMDC Cabinet listening to the people of Leek and doing a uturn on car parking ‘free hours’ in our town.

It is a welcome new development in local democracy.

Keeping the ‘free hours’ as now, gives a breathing space for traders and allows time to consult people properly on town centre parking in the future.”

Cllr Gledhill added: “Let’s hope that is done constructively and inclusively with all stakeholders and not imposed on the town via consultants. I congratulate the petition organisers who did a magnificent job.”

The Leek & Moorlands Echo contacted SMDC for clarity and response over the u-turn of the car parking changes to which, at the time of print, no one from the council had yet responded.

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