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Tuesday, 29 July 2014

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Carlisle street parking charge plans delayed

Plans to introduce on-street parking charges in Cumbria have been delayed – but a council leader insists they will still come into force.

Keith Little photo
Keith Little

Cumbria County Council is bringing in the charges, as well as those for residents’ permits, to raise funds.

Its cabinet was expected to approve the proposal at its meeting yesterday, but it has now been deferred.

Business leaders are warning politicians they will face heavy lobbying until the next meeting.

A report to councillors named streets in Carlisle city centre and Penrith and Keswick town centres where charges might be imposed.

Councillor Keith Little, who holds the county’s highways brief, proposed the delay following concerns from the authority’s scrutiny committee about how it will be implemented.

He said the extra time would allow them to work with the authority’s local committees and get important feedback.

But council leader Stewart Young stressed that the delay does not mean they are reconsidering the charges.

He added that they must do it within the planned timescale in order to meet the council’s already tight budget – otherwise extra money will have to be found from elsewhere.

However by deferring the decision until May, it will allow them to use local knowledge to fine-tune the plan.

“We are going to introduce charges for on-street parking and parking permits for residents. The issue is the implementation of that. We need to get it right,” he explained.

“Some people were opposed to this but the council has taken a democratic decision.

“Ultimately there is a budget saving sitting behind this that has to be delivered. But this will give us an opportunity for further discussions.”

Mr Young added that although the initial paper set out six areas where charges would be introduced – Carlisle, Penrith, Keswick, Whitehaven, Barrow and Ambleside – the total will actually be 11. These areas, along with affected streets, will be included in the updated papers next month.

Some businesses are concerned that parking charges could put off customers.

Cumbria Chamber of Trade chief executive Rob Johnston said some regard any charge as a deterrent but at least the number of on-street parking spaces was being maintained.

He added that people used those spaces in Carlisle to park for a short period and quickly do their shopping and there were concerns that they could be deterred from visiting Carlisle’s historic quarter.

Mr Johnston said: “That’s part of the vibrancy of that area.

“The concern was would it make a difference with that type of usage? If it is a premium parking space people will use it. We were concerned that we could be losing parking spaces.”

“Previously when they looked at this we felt we would rather keep the spaces with a charge rather than lose the spaces. The fact that we are not losing spaces is good.”

Kelvin Dixon, the chairman of Penrith Business Improvement District, has been contacting county councillors and MPs on the issue.

He said: “If they are going to roll it out it should be everywhere and not targeting individual towns.

“It’s absolutely ludicrous – they have just tried to target places that are on the up.”

Mr Dixon was also critical of naming streets where the ticket machines will be introduced without more details of the charges.

He highlighted a recent move by Northumberland County Council to cut parking charges and said there must have been concerns that parking charges deterred visitors.

“We will be speaking to the chamber of trade and other organisations to try to lobby our councillors,” he added.

Lorraine Taylor, Keswick’s deputy mayor, said that a lot of visitors to her town were tourists who expected to have to pay for parking.

She said: “Keswick is a tourist town but it’s places like Wigton where the concern is that people will not bother visiting and go to other areas where there is free parking.

“The concern is the long term effect on towns.”

The county council cabinet was already due to discuss parking enforcement and the administration of parking permits at its May meeting. It was therefore agreed to look at both issues together.

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