Car park charges and whelk stalls – a councillor comments

From the blog of East Devon Alliance Sidmouth Rural Councillor John Loudoun, who comments:

  • “I attended last evening’s District Council Cabinet meeting to join 23 other Councillors in voicing our opposition to the proposed increases in parching fees at some car parks and changes to the number of publicly available spaces at others.
  • In particular I was concerned about the proposals as they will detrimentally affect the car parks in Sidbury and Temple Street, as well as the Ham East, Ham West, Roxburgh and Mill Street car parks.
  • The meeting ended up in a farce as the Cabinet carried out a Dutch auction when it came to trying to agree by how much it would increase the parking fees. It was no way to run a whelk stall!”

“Last evening the District Council’s Cabinet met to consider a much-trailed report on changes to car parking arrangements and fees across East Devon. Those of us who are not Cabinet members, about 48 of us, are able to attend and make comments on any of the issues under consideration.

In total 24 non-Cabinet District Councillors spoke on this issue. Because there were so many of us wanting to speak, we were restricted to only two minutes to say what we wanted to.

Before any of us spoke we heard from two members of the public, one of who was James McClean who owns Sidmouth Pets in Temple street who made an impassioned set of arguments as to why the Temple Street car park should not be changed from a free car park to a pay and display one. James is collecting signatures, so please pop in and sign his petition.

I spoke out against the proposal to increase the price of parking in Sidmouth’s Ham East, Ham West, Roxburgh and Mill Street car parks. The proposal is to encourage drivers to use the Manor Road car park instead as it will remain at the current fee.

Not only might an increase, of, as proposed 50% mean that less people use our car parks, but this could lead to less people shopping in Sidmouth. Sidmouth and its traders don’t need this as the shops across Sidmouth and other local high streets are struggling.

It could also mean that drivers might decide to use the private car park opposite the Bedford Hotel as its closer to the town centre than the Manor Road car park is.

I also spoke against the proposal to turn Sidbury’s small free car park to one where only permit holders or residents who have paid for a reserved space can park there. This is a ridiculous proposal! The car park is well used every day and also during many evenings.

It is used to visit our two shops, our Church our Village Hall, our Parish Rooms and Sidbury Primary School. Without our free car park visitors to all of these venues would be forced to clog up Ridgeway, park on the A375 making access through the village even more difficult, or park in other parts of the village where residents will be hugely inconvenienced.

Sidbury’s car park is also used by many who live in the centre of the village and who either don’t have either off road parking spaces or have space outside or nearer to their homes.

After all of the 24 non-Cabinet members had spoken the Cabinet then debated the proposals. Oh dear! This turned into a complete farce as different Cabinet members proposed various amendments to the proposals and the Leader, Ben Ingham, who was chairing the meeting, totally failed to keep control of the discussions and in so doing added to what was already a confusing Cabinet debate.

After what seemed to be forever, the Cabinet, although not by a unanimous vote supported a set of slightly amended proposals keeping the intent to increase parking fees, although by not quite as much, in all the various car parks identified. The Cabinet settled on a 20% increase in these car parks after the Leader had in effect carried out a Dutch auction with numbers appearing to be plucked out of the air.

This was no way to make decisions which include increasing parking fees. Instead of pulling the report and reviewing it in light of the total opposition of the 24 Councillors who spoke against the proposals we ended up with a set of Cabinet decisions taken through a bidding process.

This matter will not end here. The Cabinet Minutes which will record last evening’s decisions on car parking will be presented to Full Council on 23 October. Councillor’s will have the opportunity to challenge the Minute and even vote against it, thus rescinding the decisions made by Cabinet.

Members of the public too can attend the Full Council and put across their points of view on this and any other matter.

Alternatively, a Motion could come from a Councillor which calls for the car parking proposals to be scrapped. This is set to run for a while longer!

If you are interested in reading the full proposals that were discussed last evening at Cabinet follow this link –

Click to access Car%20Parking%20Tariff%20Review%20-%20Careful%20Choices.pdf