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Thursday, 27 November 2014

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On-street parking charges would devastate Carlisle shops - warning

On-street parking charges would have a devastating effect on shops in Carlisle city centre.

Elsie Martlew photo
Elsie Martlew

Such a move is among the measures being suggested as Cumbria County Council works to cut £24.4 million from its budget – the first wave of £80m-worth of savings needed in the next three years because of Government spending cuts.

But one senior city councillor fears the move could sound the death knell for traders already on the edge of survival.

And she has even cast doubt on whether enforcement officers from her authority would punish those caught not paying to park.

Carlisle City Council deputy leader Elsie Martlew wants her counterparts at the county to drop proposals to impose the charges.

The county says there is evidence to show that the “right kind of traffic management and the right kind of availability of spaces can have a positive impact on retail rather than a negative one”.

However, Mrs Martlew, who holds the city’s environment and transport portfolio, said: “While I understand the county council has hard decisions to make following the Draconian cuts imposed by the Government, I believe the imposition of these parking charges will have a devastating effect on shops and businesses.

“They are already suffering from the reduced spending power of ordinary shoppers and from competition from out-of-town developments and the internet.”

Traders who are part of the Carlisle City Centre Business Group have already spoken of their fears that any new charges would stop shoppers coming to the area.

Mrs Martlew added: “Carlisle is performing better than many similar centres and many retailers have put additional investment into their businesses but some, unfortunately, are on a knife-edge and these charges could have catastrophic effects, resulting in some businesses closing down and the consequential job losses. Surely the county council does not want to see this happen?”

The Labour councillor fears the charges could also counteract work being done to boost business in the city centre, including freezing charges in car parks, an on-going clean-up campaign and the transformation of the former fire station in Rickergate into an arts centre.

She added: “At present the city council has the responsibility of enforcing on-street disc parking areas on behalf of the county council. I have serious doubts as to whether the city council would enforce this proposed charging policy.

“The city council’s priority is to ensure the prosperity, vitality and vibrancy of our city and we will do what is necessary to achieve this.”

Consultation on the county’s budget closes on Monday. It is having to find the new wave of savings on top of £88m cut out of its finances in the last three years,

If councillors decide to press ahead with on-street parking, senior county figures say it will work with district councils to “ensure that the relative charging rates for on-street parking and off-street parking create the right kind of usage and turnover of available spaces”.

A spokesman for the county council said: “We don’t want to see a situation where off-street and on-street meters are competing for revenue. We want to see drivers parking in the right place if they’re staying for a long time and the right place if it’s a short stay.

“This works fine in other areas of the country – and Cumbria is one of only a handful of local authorities that don’t charge for on-street parking.

“Most drivers are used to paying and the relationship between parking and retail is far more complicated than suggested here.”

Highways officials also believe on-street parking charges could, in places, help tackle congestion problems.

To have your say on the county’s budget proposals, go to www.cumbria.gov.uk/ourfuture.

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