Normally when I take my annual two week holiday, like most people I use the time to re-charge the batteries and do as little as possible.
This year has been no different apart from my quest to see what other countries do with regards to parking!
Not because I am a complete geek, but because of the furore over our Labour-run council’s controversial plans to massively increase car parking charges in virtually the whole of the Calder Valley. So after touring eight European countries, catching up with old friends and soaking up the Mediterranean sun, are they right?
Not only have they completely got it wrong, but they appear to have their heads stuck in the sand in complete denial.
Whether it is Brighouse, Elland, West Vale or those hard hit communities of Todmorden, Hebden Bridge or Mytholmroyd after the flooding, Labour councillors should hang their heads in shame at what their proposals are doing to these hard pressed towns and villages with this policy.
Blanket charging across virtually every car park and high street is not the answer. A realistically managed system is. The current proposals are just barking mad.
As a former retailer, I know the massive benefits of car parking charges in a town centre because this creates turnover of footfall - vital to every business if it is to sustain and improve.
If you are going to charge on street parking however, you need a 15 or 20 minute free period for those just popping into the bank or buying a paper or loaf of bread.
If you have free on street parking, sadly, as I see all throughout the Calder Valley, retailer and town centre workers take the spaces then rotate their vehicles on an hourly basis to avoid fines. While this may save them money, it often means shoppers cannot find a space and after driving around town a couple of times, head off to the supermarkets where parking is free.
What should happen is that a small free period should be offered with ‘on street’ parking, then a charge should apply. Similarly a charge should apply to those car parks which are in the immediate town centres, getting cheaper the further you are away from town.
Finally, there should be free car parks for those shoppers who do not want to pay and do not mind a short walk into town but just as vitally, we need free car parking for those workers who work in the town centres too. Disabled shoppers of course are free from this as they have their blue badges.
This should only apply to town centres whereas hard pressed villages like West Vale for example, should be kept free.
There are still businesses in Mytholmroyd which haven’t opened after the floods .
In places like Hebden Bridge where parking is at a premium, why isn’t the council looking at a park and ride scheme to stop hikers taking up valuable car parking in the town centre?
There is also the land behind Walkleys or at the bottom of the park (controversial I know) which could also be utilised.
Similarly, we see two car parks in the centre of Hebden Bridge literally next door to each other where one is 40p per hour and the other is 60p per hour. You have to ask how co-ordinated is the charging policy there?
We have even seen on our trip car parks which are half free and the other half is chargeable, another example of how well-run councils organise their parking policies.
I am under no illusion how difficult the challenge is for Calderdale with reduced budgets from central government, but there are far more examples of how Calderdale can reduce its spending without taking the easy route of taxing local motorists and decimating local businesses. This Labour council’s tax and spend policy will not only force more shoppers to head for supermarkets away from town centres but will massively damage the local economy.
Isn’t it time they took their heads out of the sand and faced up to their responsibilities and took a real hard look at this hugely damaging policy? Hundreds of people around the valley tell me they should, and I think they should too.