One of the measures being proposed by Weymouth & Portland Borough Council is to remove all the one hour free parking along Custom House Quay, Commercial Road and adjacent streets. The Weymoputh & Portland Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism Executive Committee have discussed this proposal and are resolved to fight it. They believe these free one hour spaces are essential for local shoppers, as well as out-of-town businesspeople coming into town to make short visits to the bank and suppliers.
Below is the Chamber’s letter which formally objects to the change to pay-and-display, which they understand will be heard by the Traffic Committee at the end of March. Your comments will be welcome so feel free to complete the comments form at the bottom of this article.
You may want to write to the Borough Council yourself about the proposals to take away all the free one hour spaces. Write to;
Mrs Joan Bishop,
Committee Services Officer,
Weymouth & Portland Borough Council,
You have until the end of this week [Friday 12 March.]
COPY OF THE LETTER TO WEYMOUTH & PORTLAND BOROUGH COUNCIL
THE BOROUGH OF WEYMOUTH & PORTLAND
[WAITING RESTRICTIONS] [CONSOLIDATION] ORDER 2008 [AS AMENDED]
AMENDMENT ORDER No. 14 ORDER 2010
Weymouth & Portland Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Tourism is grateful for the opportunity to comment on the proposed Amendment Order, particularly in regard to the unwelcome proposal to introduce pay-and-display along Custom House Quay, Commercial Road and adjacent streets in place of the one hour free parking that currently exists there.
The local business community remains greatly opposed to the loss of any of the free one hour spaces along Custom House Quay, Commercial Road and adjacent streets. Many out-of-town businesspeople use these spaces on a daily basis to make quick visits to town centre banks, finance houses, the main Post Office, shops, suppliers, printers and other establishments.
Principally however, these free one hour spaces are used by local people to make short visits to town centre shops and traders. The Chamber believes that charging for such spaces in future would be perceived negatively as a tax on local people shopping in Weymouth. In already difficult economic circumstances, the town centre needs all the help it can get, to attract more rather than less shoppers. We believe a substantial number of shoppers will be put off shopping in the town were charges introduced and that can only spell less turnover for our town centre, which has never been under so much negative economic pressure.
During the debate at our Executive Committee, the excellent suggestion was made that the free one hour spaces on Custom House Quay, Commercial Road and adjacent streets should be restricted to Borough residents. A tear-off paper certificate could be printed as part of the annual Council Tax booklet. Requiring absolutely no administration, a free paper Residents’ Certificate would be a good way of giving Weymouth & Portland residents an advantage in parking free for one hour close to Weymouth town centre.
It is clear that introducing onstreet parking charges in streets not currently free, will in any case be financially counter-productive. The December 2009 report to Management Committee estimates a cost of £240,000 to initiate and £25,000 a year for “service and maintenance,” yet is estimated to raise only £85,000 a year- a massive loss of at least £180,000 in year one- at the most optimistic levels. We believe the income would be much less. The ringfenced onstreet parking account is already in deficit and under new rules, any loss in a financial year on this account has to be made-up from the General Fund or from reserves.
The suggestion was made at the Management Committee in March, that the free one hour could be reduced to 40 or even 20 minutes. That would be too short a time to access many of the town’s northerly commercial premises and would substantially penalise the less able, who do not walk as fast! One hour is a reasonable time in which to achieve that which is intended and indeed some may well not take that long, in which case the space becomes immediately available to another shopper.
For many years now, there has been an underlying suggestion that continually increasing parking charges will somehow aid traffic flow. As the Chamber suggested in 2008, seasonal congestion is often caused by the Georgian layout of our streets and the relatively few through routes. For example, once past the Jubilee Clock, the only way out of The Esplanade is along Custom House Quay, so that is inevitably congested in high season. Most UK resorts suffer endemic congestion in high season and Weymouth, built on a peninsula, is no exception.
Returning to the point, first made in 2008, the Secretary of State for Transport advises all local authorities in the Operational Guidance that “they should never use parking charges just to raise revenue or as a local tax.” While parking charges undoubtedly make a very substantial contribution to the income of the borough, they have probably reached the highest point that can be sustained- particularly out of season- without discouraging further the footfall into the town centre, the lifeblood of Weymouth business. We believe increasing charges from £1.30 to £1.80 an hour to be unreasonable and will certainly deter locals and visitors alike.
We ask councillors to make no change to the existing onstreet situation and to continue the existing one hour free spaces as a benefit to Weymouth & Portland residents. In the current difficult economic situation, the business community needs the positive support of all councillors to put as few barriers as possible in the way of local residents and visitors patronising town centre businesses.