Controversy over parking fees

Parking fees to double to £2 per hour at 21 East Devon car parks

Philippa Davies & Joe Ives, Exmouth Journal

Fees at 21 of East Devon’s car parks are to double to £2 per hour, despite strong opposition from businesses, Conservative councillors and MP, Simon Jupp.

East Devon District Council has approved a budget that included the price increase in 21 seaside town car parks and a rise to £1.50 per hour in six others.

From April the £2 fee will be introduced in a number of car parks, including Exmouth’s Imperial Road short stay, Imperial Road Recreation Ground long stay, Queen’s Drive, Foxholes, Queen’s Drive Echelon, Camperdown Terrace and Beach Gardens, as well as Budleigh’s Lime Kiln, Rolle Mews.

A rise from £1 to £1.50 will be introduced at six other EDDC car parks: Exmouth’s London Hotel,

Honiton’s Lace Walk, King Street and New Street North and South, and Seaton’s Orchard Road. The budget was agreed at the full council meeting on Wednesday, February 23, with 29 votes in favour, 12 against.

In a column in this newspaper earlier this month, East Devon MP Simon Jupp said: “I have heard from businesses who fear shoppers will drive to out-of-town supermarkets or shop online even more, with visitors choosing to go elsewhere.”

At the end of last week, two petitions against the parking fee increases across East Devon gathered around 1,800 signatures; one organised by the Sidmouth Chamber of Commerce, the other by Sidmouth resident Mike Goodman.

The chamber’s vice-chair, Sally Mynard, addressed a virtual meeting of the council on Monday, February 21.

She said: “It is obvious this will significantly impact trade in our towns which are struggling to recover from Covid, and which are under long-term pressures from the internet and out of town competition. We feel the proposal has not been thought through and has not allowed consultation. “There has been no impact assessment, and little concern for the economic health of our communities and the businesses they support. It looks like a panic measure: lack of evidence, lack of consultation, lack of proper debate and discussion.”

The chair of Sidmouth Town Council, Ian Barlow, also spoke at that meeting, describing the increase as ‘ridiculous’ and ‘a gamble’.

He said: “I think you are risking an awful lot for possibly a gain, but you do not know that, and certainly from previous experience you will not gain from it.”

Speaking after the meeting on Wednesday where the budget was voted through, the leader of East Devon District council Paul Arnott said: “I think that the majority of councillors are very disappointed that the Conservatives sought to weaken the budget by opposing it. Fortunately, they lost very clearly.”