New on-street parking charges set for Surrey

This article appeared in The Surrey Advertiser on January 13th 2012, New on-street parking charges for Surrey

“PAY and display on-street parking charges are set to be introduced in town centres across the county.

Surrey County Council (SCC) hopes to implement the scheme in all boroughs and districts by March next year – with charges varying from 30p for half an hour to £1.40 an hour.

The authority said it was reacting to the current economic situation and argued it would increase the turnover of shoppers.

Opposition councillors and some business leaders have however criticised the move.

Ian Lake, SCC cabinet member for transport, said the council could not go on subsidising car parking spaces in the current economic climate.

“I think we have to look at all the opportunities that present themselves to balance our spending,” he said. “We have pressing priorities with adult social care and children’s services and we can’t look at things in isolation.

“Many people have the view that tax payers should not subsidise drivers.”

The current on-street parking enforcement regime makes a loss of £400,000 a year.

It is estimated that introducing on-street parking charges right across the county would cost up to £1.45 million but officers at SCC believe income of up to £2.5m could be generated every year.

Cllr Lake promised that people would see part of any profit from the scheme reinvested to improve the roads in the area where the money was generated.

“If there are any surpluses we will work to ensure that a percentage of that can be spent on highways locally,” he said.

It is also felt by SCC that the new regime would cut congestion and carbon dioxide emissions due to fewer drivers having to travel around looking for free parking spaces.

The Liberal Democrats have however called the charges an “unacceptable imposition on retailers and residents”.

County councillor Stephen Cooksey, transport spokesman, said: “Most market towns and large villages in Surrey have felt the consequences of recession for some time and have retail economies, which are fragile.

“This proposal is a further unnecessary blow, which will discourage short visits to local shops and result in even more pressure on already overcrowded residential streets.”

Along with Reigate and Banstead, Elmbridge would be the first borough to see the new pay and display machines – with their proposed introduction in May.

Traders in Cobham have been against the idea since it was first mooted early last year.

Alistair Mann, chairman of the Cobham Chamber of Commerce, said: “We are still adamantly opposed to pay and display and keen to engage with the council.”

Plans for a consultation were approved by Cllr Lake on Wednesday.

Maps of where the spaces and pay and display machines would go have now been published and the county council has set in motion the procurement process for the technology, which will include a cashless payment system.

In July, Surrey Heath and Spelthorne would be the second two boroughs to experience the scheme, followed in September by Guildford – one of the few locations where paid-for on street parking already exists – and Waverley.

The system would be implemented in Mole Valley and Epsom and Ewell in November and Woking and Runnymede in January.”