Thursday, 16 August 2012

Launceston meets to discuss parking - but Cornwall Council officers refuse to attend

Cornwall Council's parking officers refused to attend a meeting tonight to discuss parking in Launceston. This despite the meeting being officially organised by the community network panel and an invite being issued six weeks in advance. Such high-handedness by officers was, I believe, very disrespectful to the large numbers of local businesses and residents who had turned out to discuss parking charges. In addition, it goes against the whole concept of localism. How can Cornwall Council claim to be engaging with local communities when their officers bolt themselves into their bunker in Truro?

Tonight's meeting was to discuss the options for pay and display charges for the year beginning next April. Various ideas have been put forward which the Council has studied and deemed some to be acceptable and others not so. The decision was made on whether or not they felt the proposed charges would bring in enough income. However, they failed to consider that lower charges might actually encourage far more drivers to use our car parks and they refused to consider the idea that the wellbeing of the town would be best served by lower charges (and a lower income) with a higher footfall in shops.

The Council position is a fair one from a particular point of view - although I fundamentally disagree with it. But also fair points of view are the other options which are genuinely held by people in Launceston. The refusal by Cornwall Council to engage in debate or seek to justify their position is incredibly disappointing. They seemed to think that it was the job of local councillors to defend their thinking as if we are part of some corporate whole. I made it quite clear that I am not prepared to defend a position I disagree with. It is my job to speak up for the people of Launceston, not to defend unreasonable positions taken by Cornwall Council.

At tonight's meeting we heard interesting ideas about moving to a pay on exit system (ending the culture of people rushing to avoid overstaying); ending the definition of some car parks as long stay and others as short stay; allowing a period of free parking at the start of a visit; and transferring the car parks to town council control. We also asked people for their views on the various payment schemes that have been suggested and whether they had any other ideas.

All of the comments made tonight have been noted and, together with the responses on the feedback forms, will be forwarded to the council with a request for proper consideration and a detailed response.

In the meantime we will continue to ask parking officers to meet with people from Launceston to constructively discuss ideas for fairer (and more profitable) parking schemes. I just hope that the attitude of officers changes and they agree to engage.

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