Waverley parking charge meeting branded ‘farcical’

This is an article from The Surrey Advertiser, 2nd September 2011

Waverley parking charge meeting branded ‘farcical’ written by Alan Golden five months ago.

A MEETING called to discuss proposed on-street parking charges in Waverley ended in farce this week.

The whole thing was declared a waste of time after members of the borough council’s combined overview and scrutiny committees found they were trying to make decisions without having all the information they needed.

Councillors were told they could not refer to discussions held by Surrey County Council’s area transportation task groups as they were considered private.

This was despite the fact that last week’s Surrey Advertiser reported the decision made by the Cranleigh area group and that this – and the decisions made by the area’s other groups – will be presented to a public meeting of the county’s Waverley local committee in Dunsfold on September 16.

The Cranleigh group had been told by a county official that the introduction of on-street charges in the village would not be financially viable and as a result agreed, with the exception of county council leader, Dr Andrew Povey, that the scheme should not proceed.

Calling for Tuesday’s meeting to be abandoned, Waverley’s Independent, Cllr Diane James, declared: “I consider this meeting to be a complete waste of time.”

Cllr James had called for the borough to tell Dr Povey that Cranleigh, Godalming, Haslemere and Farnham should be excluded from the introduction of on-street parking charges.

Afterwards she labelled the whole thing a ‘farce’ and condemned the county council’s approach to the charging issue, which was also criticised by a number of councillors as ‘one size fits all’, with many concerns being highlighted, including the knock-on effects of displacement parking.

Before deciding that it was pointless continuing, councillors voiced strong opposition over the plans to introduce charging in Cranleigh and Haslemere.

During the discussions, it became clear that there was still widespread confusion about the reasons for introducing on-street charging, with councillors describing the policy as flawed and contradictory. The county claims it is not about making money, but highlights its deficit, and insists it is aimed at improving turnover (churn) in parking bays.

Surrey’s cabinet member responsible for the parking issue, Cllr Ian Lake, insisted there would be proper consultation, adding: “It’s not a done deal.”

Cllr James said it was up to other councillors to argue on behalf of their areas, but said Cranleigh should be exempt from charging.

The county’s attempt to justify charges on the basis that it will increase turnover in shopping areas and boost local trade – a claim overwhelmingly rejected by traders – was questioned by Haslemere’s Cllr Nicky Lee, who pointed out that the majority of parking meters proposed for the town were nowhere near the shops, but would target commuters who have to leave their vehicles on the road as there is not enough space in the car parks to meet demand.

“To say we are going to create churn is a nonsense. We are going to charge people to park where they already park all day,” she said, declaring that Haslemere was being used as a ‘cash cow’.

When it became clear that it was impossible for committee members to come up with any meaningful recommendations to put to the executive next week, it was agreed to abandon the meeting. It will be reconvened after the local committee has met and before Waverley’s next executive meeting.