North Somerset Parking Review

I do not drive a car. It’s a choice. Reactions range from “I don’t think people who can’t drive should be allowed to have kids – oh, but not you!”, to casual assumption and all sorts in between. There’s always a reaction though.

Cars do something weird to people. I declare myself car-less to apologise in advance if I don’t quite get the range of emotions that being behind that wheel just, amplify.

This context is really to explain that although I don’t get it entirely, I understand that parking in Weston is a topic that animates many people – as over 3000 members of the Weston Parking Action Facebook group makes clear. So many people might be interested in the proposed changes being voted on by the Executive Committee on 7th January 2020.

The meeting

Members of the public can attend, and speak at executive committee meetings. The parking reccomendations will be discussed 7th January 2020, 10am, New Council Chamber, Town Hall, Weston. You go in through the front entrance by the zebra crossing, under the clock. Details of what will be discussed/the agenda can be viewed here.

Speaking at meetings

Standing up and speaking can be daunting if you don’t like people looking at and listening to you. You might blush red, your heart rate might increase – nobody but you will notice. Yeah of course most people find it scary, but that’s no reason not to do it! I may speak at this meeting, but I’m hoping I’ll get a response to my email (more below) and won’t have to.

The rules if you want to speak at a meeting:

  • You must be a resident, a business ratepayer or entitled to vote in North Somerset.
  • You must email or write to democratic services with your name and address and the subject you wish to speak about. We must receive this by noon on the day before the meeting. If you wish to speak about a planning application, we also need to know if you wish to speak in support or against the application.
  • You will usually have three minutes to speak, at the discretion of the chairman. The Executive will hear up to four people.

Democratic services

 01934 634 900

 committee.administration@n-somerset.gov.uk

Recommendations

The report, authored by two North Somerset Council officers, will be discussed and voted upon at the Executive Meeting on 7th Jan.

It sounds really expensive to me.

£760,000 to decrease some charges in Weston, install some meters across other towns in North Somerset and make some repairs to car parks.

The justification for doing this rather than nothing, given on page 17 is

“The option to do nothing would leave residents and all other users to deal with increasing pressure on the limited parking resource.”

I have asked to see the evidence for that statement.

Income generating

The changes intend to make parking ‘fairer’ across the district, by not only charging in Weston.

The plans are predicted to generate £220,000 a year. This desire to create revenue is absolutely understandable considering budget cuts to councils have reached almost 50% since 2010.

You can click the Facebook post below to read the comments from Councillor Mike Bell in response to some of questions. Mike is the councillor where I live, he is also deputy leader of the council. It it his Lib Def colleague Councillor Mark Canniford who is leading the parking review work.

My beef

I am pro charging to park cars.

My concerns about these plans are:

  • Is this the best use of council borrowing?
  • Should the council be encouraging car use by reducing charges, especially considering they have declared a climate emergency?
  • Why are the council planning to increase charges at Weston train station, doesn’t this reduce the attractiveness of train travel and therefore undermine the climate emergency declaration?
  • Why is this parking review being held in isolation form the Weston town centre vision being created to revitalise the high street? Especially when parking is so commonly cited as a reason for residents not to visit Weston town centre.

I suspect some residents living in areas where charges will be introduced aren’t going to be happy, though I struggle to see how anyone justifies charges in Weston but not others North Somerset towns, apart from on the basis of inaccessible or poor public transport. (So why aren’t the council investing in that kind of community resource instead?)

Show us your data.

The new council administration claim their priorities for North Somerset are to be open, fair and green. Sounds good to me. My questions to the Executive are these:

  • Will a public consultation be completed before the planned introduction of charge changes in Weston in April 2020?
  • Where is the evidence that there is “increasing pressure on the limited parking resource”?
  • What work has been done to assess if parking pressure can be reduced by encouraging public transport, walking and/or cycling infrastructure?
  • What are the plans for the £220,000 income generated?

I’ll report back.

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