Parking charge increases – and some new charges – have been approved for Calderdale’s towns despite claims they will ruin businesses.
Calderdale Council’s Cabinet approved a raft of proposed increased or new charges hearing these were not blanket proposals but carefully targeted town by town and area by area, some arrangements remaining unchanged.
But chair of Brighouse BID steering group, Lesley Adams, said changes to charging introduced in late spring were driving shoppers away from the town and harming businesses, with one reporting a drop of almost £9,000 in the quarter since free on-street parking in some areas of the centre was limited to a free half hour.
Far from retaining and even increasing charges they should be scrapped, she argued.
Cabinet member for Neighbourhoods and Communities, Coun Susan Press (Lab, Todmorden), presenting the paper, admitted increasing or introducing charges was never going to top the popularity polls of what councils do.
But taking into account a range of issues they had been carefully considered for each town’s circumstances.
“Looking at the proposals, they are not one size fits all, they have been considered very carefully and each town within Calderdale’s different circumstances.
“They are looking at on and off-street parking, and balancing long and short stay provision.
“I would hope people when they look at the charges in Calderdale. They are relatively modest compared to others and the charges being considered are fairly small ones,” she said.
Lesley Adams said the changes in charging and proximity of alternative shopping centres in towns very close by was producing “a perfect storm”.
“Since they were introduced many shoppers don’t like paying for parking and the 30 minute free parking limit means shoppers are no longer browsing and are leaving town.
“Parking charges provide a valid reason for shoppers to leave the high street and go out to the supermarkets. Parking charges can only have a negative effect on footfall,” she said.
The businesswoman said figures had shown one Brighouse business’s takings were down almost £9,000 since charges were introduced in May.
“I don’t doubt the intention isn’t to deliberately harm Brighouse town centre but the unintended consequence could do just that. There is a very small window to change the situation, remove the machines there and revert to one hour for the parking,” she said.
Brighouse ward Councillor Scott Benton (Con) added: “For goodness’ sake let’s listen to the people who have businesses who know about the tremendous affect this is having. They are concerned for their future, their livelihoods and think the current situation is unsustainable,” he said.
But Coun Barry Collins (Lab, Illingworth and Mixenden) said: “It doesn’t help the argument around parking to say that every problem on the high street is caused by parking.”
He said Government had at last recognised that issues like business rates and online shopping as well as parking charges all had an effect. A huge package had been put together to support the town and an upcoming Town Board meeting was set to look at the issue in detail with the council bringing forward its own assessments alongside Lesley’s. If not soon enough a special meeting could be set up.
A similar system worked effectively in Hebden Bridge, charges were eight times higher in Halifax and Brighouse was Calderdale’s second town.
“We need to get to the bottom of this, because usage of our car parking meters is not reflecting the story which you told, I’m afraid, which on a meter is collectable evidence,” said Coun Collins.
Coun Tim Swift said he was not convinced going back to free parking in Calderdale was the answer and charging had been considered carefully, one of its aims to ensure there was a balance between short and long-term spaces, securing space availability for visitors.
Coun Geraldine Carter and Coun Steven Leigh (both Con, Ryburn) made a case against imposition of charges on Ripponden’s only car park. Coun Carter said the changes were “disappointing” and in Ripponden’s case was the only car park in the village. In all cases the council should have consideration for the high street, she said.
Coun Dot Foster (Lab, Sowerby Bridge) said her town had air quality issues which meant the council had to try and get people back onto public transport. The charges, which believed were fair, would help make the bus a better option.
Coun Collins said the new arrangements at Ripponden would stop people from taking up the available parking spaces all day.
As well as extra on and off-street charges, contract permit holders will also be subject to an increase, from £594 to £620, and in Halifax’s Skircoat area contract permit holders from £295 to £330 although no changes are planned to the cost of resident or visitor parking permits.
In all, the changes could bring in an extra £362,634 for the council, passing a savings target the service has to meet.
Not everywhere will be subject to increased charging and in one case – at Elland – where parking charges have been removed for the first hour by Calderdale to encourage business in a town which has been struggling, the change will stay in place.
Users of some car parks in Halifax, Brighouse, Hebden Bridge and Sowerby Bridge will face increases while some car parks in Sowerby Bridge, Ripponden and Todmorden will be subject to charging for the first time.