townviewHot TOPICS town h clean 

Regressive parking charges run counter to green agenda in small towns

(May 30, 2010)

WILTSHIRE Council needs to bring in county-wide parking charges to fill a huge gap in its budget next year - but in doing so in small market towns such a plan will ticet2run counter to the green agenda and hit the poorest in society hardest.
We need only look across the county boundary to see the shape of things to come - in Frome.
Frome charges 80p for one hour and 110p for two hours but there are no longer any supermarkets left in the town centre.
Somerfield and Safeway, which used to supply the bulk of supplies to the town's poorer inhabitants (ie non-drivers), no longer exist and their shops have closed.
Instead vulnerable and elderly people are forced to find a way of travelling to the out of town shopping provided at some distance along undulating and poorly maintained paths to reach Sainsburys and Asda.
These sites provide free parking - which is great for the wealthy drivers but not good for the poor who must now struggle to obtain some of life's bare essentials no longer available in the town centre at competitive prices.
Likewise parking charges imposed in town centres only encourage people to drive further to out of town superstores - Sainsbury's in Frome even has a chemist open until late  in the evening.
The result of charges is that the town centres struggle and die with fewer and fewer essential shops in their hearts.
tickets1''Last week I paid to park in the town centre car park in Frome and the back of the ticket offered me the opportunity of claiming back an hour's parking,'' said VFW's Steve Dancey.
''Then I looked at the details which said the money could, ironically, be claimed at the Somerfield store - which closed a couple of months ago.
''The county council should be honest and tell us the truth that it wants to raise money to fill a yawning budget gap next year.
''If it tries to play the green card it should be ashamed as parking charges in small market towns are certainly not green but they are brutally regressive in their effect.
''When I was a student at university in the 1970s sometimes the only thing that proved effective against an unbending, unrepresentative and undemocratic* authority was the use of non-violent direct action - Anybody for a sit-in at County Hall?''
*Undemocratic because no Conservative candidate at the election said they would be bringing in universal car parking charges and that group now forms the administration.

Click here to return to the HOT TOPICS page