Parking charges row as new meters installed

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If it isn’t broken, don’t fix it – that’s the view of some businesses who have watched new parking meters installed on their streets over the past few days.

Roads including Bethel Street, Bradford Road (town centre section), Briggate, Commercial Street, Gooder Street, King Street, Market Street and Park Street in Brighouse town centre and on Albert Street, Crown Street, Cheetham Street, Carlton Street and Keighley Road in Hebden Bridge will be subject to new charges probably from late June.

Up to now, drivers have been able to park their vehicles for free for one hour whereas under the new arrangements only the first half hour will be free with a second half hour costing 20p, still with a one-hour limit in place.

Calderdale Council says it is a while since parking charges were reviewed across the borough and new charges had been examined carefully and taken freedback and comments into account.

Some businesses in Brighouse fear the charges have the potential to create parking problems where none currently exist.

In Hebden Bridge debate about the issue, particularly on social media, has seen some businesses offering to pay the 20p fee for their customers.

Some argue that in Hebden Bridge’s case it will free up parking spaces to enable a better turnover of trade while others are concerned it will hit trade or are waiting to see what the effect is before commenting.

Views expressed on social media included concerns the 20p charge might soon be increased and that the free half hour would just not be long enough to complete a task and leave without incurring a charge.

On social media newly-elected Councillor Sarah Courtney (Labour, Calder) said colleague Josh Fenton-Glynn had successfully argued for the free half hour without which charging would have been an issue, she felt. As it was, people would still be able to park to nip in to shops and go for a coffee.

Brighouse businesswoman Lesley Adams, who is chairman of the Brighouse Bid Scheme, said the issue was not necessarily just the 20p amount in itself. Brighhouse had always been a town where on certain streets people could park up, run an errand and leave without having to pay – but just half an hour without having to pay could turn a quick shopping visit into something of a flap.

“There has never been an issue with parking supply whether we pay to park or park free. It’s already got turnover because it is working – we don’t have any traffic management issues,” said Lesley.

She said a one-size-fits-all solution seemed to be in place and doubted it could be monitored effectively.

“For this to be enforceable wardens are going to have to be Mo Farrah to do it. You couldn’t get round and do that all day.

“It is just putting another barrier in the way of someone coming to shop.

“It’s not the cost. But you have to find somewhere to park, get a ticket out of the machine and be constantly clock watching.

“It will drive people out,” she said.

There were a number of people who would say they were not going to pay on principle and others who would go slightly over their free time and, having been ticketed, would take the view they would not visit again.

It would not take that much in lost trade for the cost to businesses to outstrip the amount of money the council believed it might make, she said.

Lesley added it could have the effect of blocking up parking spaces longer than they needed to be: “People may stop longer saying ‘I’ve paid for that,” she said.

Calderdale Council’s Cabinet member for Communities and Neighbourhood Services, Councillor Susan Press (Labour, Todmorden), said the issue had been looked into in detail for each town’s requirements.

“We’ve looked at tariffs right across Calderdale to ensure that they reflect the individual requirements of each town, with charges reducing in some areas and increasing in others.

“The changes have been carefully planned taking into account the need to provide good quality, affordable and competitive parking, whilst also encouraging a good turnover of spaces to increase availability.

“The introduction of on-street parking charges in Brighouse and Hebden Bridge was agreed in December 2016, with changes advertised in local papers and signage in affected areas ahead of a formal consultation in May 2017. Feedback from this consultation was taken into account when preparing final proposals.

“The planned on-street charges include an initial 30 minutes free parking, with a 20p charge per half hour after this time. The time limits of the streets where charges are being introduced are not being changed.”

Conservative group leader Councillor Scott Benton (Brighouse) said: “Residents, traders, and the Brighouse and Rastrick Councillors have consistently opposed the introduction of on-street parking charges in the town centre due to the concerns that we have about the impact that this may have upon our local economy.

“The charges will raise a relatively small amount of money and due to the large outlay of purchasing the meters will take the council a long time to break even.

“We are bitterly disappointed that once again the council has not listened to local traders and businesses in Brighouse and has imposed these charges in spite of the significant local opposition, including a petition signed by over 2500 people.

“What makes matters worse is that the Labour Cabinet have cynically delayed the introduction of the charges which were approved 18 months ago until a few weeks after the Local Elections so that they don’t lose support.

“We will be working with the traders to monitor the impact of the charges closely and will continue to fight these if they impact upon trade as we suspect.”

Deputy leader of the Labour Group Councillor Barry Collins (Illingworth and Mixenden) denied their introducion had been purposely delayed until after May’s elections.

“The government itself recommends that local authorities, faced with major budget cuts, should regularly review charges for the services they provide.

“Calderdale Council last reviewed its parking charges in 2016.

“After public consultation, the current schedule was introduced on a phased basis, beginning in spring 2017.

“New on-street charges in Hebden Bridge and Brighouse, including free parking for the first half-hour, represent the final phase of that particular scheme. Charges, in all parts the borough, will be reviewed again during the current financial year,” he said.

Caption guidance:

Brighouse businesswoman Lesley Adams, who is chairman of the Brighouse Bid Scheme

Worried Brighouse business owners with ward Conservative councillors Howard Blagbrough (back row, left) and Scott Benton (back row, right)

The new machines – they will remain shrink-wrapped until coming into use, probably in late June

John Greenwood , Local Democracy Reporting Service