Wednesday, 02 September 2015

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Carlisle on-street parking fees plan hits snag

The wheels could come off the new on-street parking charges before they’re even brought in – if there’s no-one to enforce them.

Elsie Martlew: ‘Bodes well for the future’

Cash-strapped Cumbria County Council has agreed to introduce the charges in a bid to raise £700,000 a year.

But senior political and business figures in Carlisle fear the move could have a devastating impact on businesses in the city centre.

Carlisle City Council currently enforces charges in city centre car parks on behalf of the county council.

But the authority’s deputy leader Elsie Martlew believes colleagues should consider refusing to enforce the new on-street fees.

If the move was adopted it would mean the county council could be forced to turn to a private contractor instead, Mrs Martlew added.

She said: “The city centre is struggling with online and out-of-town shopping.

“We as a city council have a priority to ensure the city centre remains viable and vibrant.

“And that is totally in opposition to on-street car parking charges.

“It’s a county council policy and not ours.

“They [Cumbria County Council] would expect us to police it but I am reluctant to commit the city council to doing that because it is totally against our policy for the city centre.

“These on-street charges are only supposed to be used to address traffic problems but there aren’t any in the centre of Carlisle.”

Labour councillor Mrs Martlew, however, confirmed that the city council had not yet formally considered refusing to enforce on-street parking.

She added that there have been no discussion between the city and county councils regarding the issue.

County councillors voted through a raft of cost-cutting measures at their budget meeting last Thursday.

The authority has had to slash £24.4m from its budget after cuts in the amount of funding it receives from central government.

It is faced with the prospect of saving a total of £88m in the next three years.

Mrs Martlew added: “I appreciate the county’s problems but I don’t think charging for on-street parking will do any good.

“It’s the county council’s call on this and I think they have made a bad one.

“Carlisle won’t be alone because there are other towns in the county which will be seeing the same thing.”

Members from the Carlisle City Centre Business Group fear any new parking charges would put shoppers off coming into the area.

Secretary Viv Dodd said the organisation would back the city council if it refused to enforce the charges.

“I think most businesses are pleased the city council has frozen car park charges for the coming year,” he said.

“And we appreciate the difficulties all councils face with the Draconian cuts imposed by government.

“Our plea to the county council is to think very, very carefully because businesses are suffering enough at the moment.

“Only introduce them if you absolutely have to, and if you do, please keep them as low as possible.

“We would support the city council if it refused to enforce the charges but the best choice would be to scrap them altogether.”

Cumbria County Council insists the new on-street charging will be introduced in a phased and co-ordinated way.

A spokesman said: “This will allow us to fully understand how it ties in with off-street parking and free parking areas, and what is the best technology to allow an affordable, practical and user-friendly solution.

“It can mean smoother traffic flows, more availability of parking in the highest demand areas and benefits for businesses through an increase in available spaces.

“Decisions on where exactly to introduce on-street parking charges, how much to charge and when and to whom restrictions should apply will be made at a local level, and we will be liaising with the district councils as part of this process.”



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