Controversial local parking charge plans scrapped

By Midsomer Norton & Radstock   |   Editor   |
Friday 11th February 2022 1:36 pm
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Controversial parking charges planned for Midsomer Norton and Radstock have been scrapped to protect their “relatively weak” economies. 

The new fees, which were only expected to raise £20,000 this year, were proposed as Bath and North East Somerset Council faces a “perfect storm” of reduced income and higher costs, but drew cross-party condemnation and were criticised by hundreds of residents. 

Councillor Richard Samuel, the authority’s Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said the charges would not be introduced because of the potentially negative impact on high street businesses. 

Presenting a petition with more than 1,100 signatures, Labour councillor Grant Johnson said he had never witnessed a community so vigorously against a council proposal. 

“The strength of feeling as I spoke openly with traders and residents was one of anger and disbelief. Here was an administration prepared to do so much damage to the economic prosperity of a community for such little payback,” he said. 

Businesses said the proposals would be the “final nail in the coffin for our already struggling high streets”, with independent councillor Shaun Hughes saying the fees would “do more harm than good”. 

Even the Lib Dems joined the campaign against the charges put forward by party leaders. 

Mr Johnson said that “stank of damage limitation”, adding: “I would carefully consider the impact your proposals have on the livelihoods of local businesses and local residents before you try to play politics with them.” 

 

Conservative councillor Michael Evans said parking charges were proposed in Midsomer Norton a decade ago and now the high street is even more fragile. 

He said residents would be disappointed if the fees were introduced when the council had managed to find cash to refurbish its own offices in Keynsham and provide a car park just for its own staff. 

Mr Samuel, the cabinet member for resources, previously defended the “very modest” mooted charges in the Somer Valley, saying: “If you do not raise income from the sources that are available to the council, what services do you cut?

“I’m afraid that’s the binary choice available to the council – the council cannot maintain its level of services unless there is a charge for parking.”

But after the strength of feeling shown, he told the cabinet meeting on February 10: “We have listened carefully to the arguments advanced against the proposed introduction of car parking charges into Midsomer Norton and Radstock. 

“Due to the relative weakness of the local economies in those towns I have concluded that the charges should not be introduced because of the potentially negative impact that might have on high street businesses.” 

The council’s parking income has recovered better than the struggling heritage services and commercial estate, which Cllr Manda Rigby said it has become dependent on. 

Mr Samuel said: “Less income means more pressure on our budget because we cannot rely on the income we normally use to fund our full range of services. We expect to receive £13million less income in the coming financial year. When this is added to the significant inflationary pressures in the wider economy and the post-lockdown service pressures, we have a perfect storm.”

More on this in next week’s Journal

Stephen Sumner, LDRS

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