MOTORISTS will have to pay for on-street parking in Stafford after councillors approved the principal of pay and display in the town’s streets in spite of warnings it would kill the high street.
County Councillors Philip Jones and John Francis said it would be a massive blow for traders but they were voted down by other county and borough members who make up the borough’s joint parking committee.
It will be months before Stafford Borough Council decide which streets will be chargeable but the principle was approved in a bid to agree the parking budget with Staffordshire County Council.
There is a projected shortfall of £73,400 by the end of this financial year in the running of the parking operation in Stafford which has partly been attributed to a reduction in the number of tickets issued.
Councillor Jones said: “We will start with one street with parking metres then another and before very long it will be like Hanley where there’s nowhere to park on street in the town unless you are prepared to pay. The consequence is Hanley town centre is is empty, the shops are closed. This is a recipe for further dismay in the high street. This is not suitable for Stafford.
“By all means control parking so one person doesn’t hog a parking space all day but to impose on street parking charges is a prescription to the death of the town centre. I’m implacably opposed to it.”
Councillor Francis said: “You put this in and we are finished in this town. We have discussed this numerous times and every time we come to the same conclusion – parking is not an income generating scheme for this borough council. It never was and never should be. You put on street parking charges in this town and this town will die.”
He added people used the Queensville retail park because the parking was free.
Stafford Council’s cabinet member for planning Frances Beatty rubbished the claims it would harm the town centre saying: “What’s being talked is a lot of nonsense. What’s being proposed is to look at the expansion of the number of spaces available on street
“All we are saying is if anyone wants to stay on street for longer than the 30 (free) minutes there will be a charge, simple as that. This town has better occupancy rates than any town in the West Midlands. We are a can do, not a can’t do organisation and we are not going to have people saying this town is failing. It’s not, it’s obviously succeeding.”
Ted Manders, head of SBC’s planning and regeneration, said: “The introduction of on street parking charged would only be on the basis of maintaining the current 30 minutes free parking. For those who want to spend more time on street it seems perfectly reasonable to introduce on street parking charges.
“Up until now we have not had on street parking charges so there’s always been a deficit as a consequence. Queensway doesn’t have free parking because at the end of the day someone pays for it. It might be free to the shoppers but it’s paid for by the retailers. We are not the only car park operator in the town centre. We need to create a bit of a balance – let’s have a rational debate and not bring in spurious issues.”
Borough Councillor Ann Edgeller said: “I can’t sit here and listen to county councillors decry this town. What chance have we got to make the town grow if we are saying it’s dying on its feet. We should be shouting about what a good town we have got and encourage people to come.”
County Councillor Maureen Compton said: “It seems to me a fair compromise to have payment for car parking – 30 minutes free parking seems to me a fair compromise. I go along with it.”
County Councillor Len Bloomer said: “I remember sitting on this committee some years ago and going along with on street parking charges. I still go with that. We need it. It’s one way in a small way of putting the deficit right.”
Borough Councillor Andrew Harp said: “The traders have got to do something about encouraging people to go there not just us. Some of the traders are still living 30 years ago and it’s time they got off their backsides and did something to encourage people. I go to the Lake District and you get charged £4 for 10 minutes and people still go there.”