FOLLOWING publication by The Hunts Post of a copy of our letter to Jonathan Djanogly MP, expressing concern about the district councils proposed doubling of car parking fees in St Ives, Councillor Ian Bates, leader of the district council, has replied to us.
He states that: "This is particularly applicable to St Ives that does not have out-of-town retail in the conventional sense, and to drive to such facilities within this area would be at far, far greater cost in terms of time and travel and, assuming that end destination parking is 'free of charge', than the cost of paying local town centre parking assuming charges."
Leaving aside the facts that Cllr Bates does not appear to know about Co-op/Somerfield, Huntingdon Garden and Leisure, Morrisons etc, and that most of us do not charge for our time when we shop. Then his main argument for increasing car parking charges is that it is cheaper to drive to St Ives than go to out-of-town retail.
Cllr Bates has been coy in telling us what the cost is per mile and how it has been calculated. But the AA web quotes the costs for a family car at about 60p per mile and some environmentalists get to about 100p per mile.
These figures appear to take account of the car cost (averaged over the car's life), tax, insurance, maintenance, fuel and sometimes environmental damage. These full environmental costs are correct, and the retailers of St Ives would love to use them.
The problem for Cllr Bates and his colleges is that most people do not think this way. The retailers of St Ives know this because, if people were using 60 to 100 pence per mile figure, then St Ives would be full of cars and the out-of-town retail car parks empty.
But that is not the case: Tesco Bar Hill is heaving with cars, Morrisons at Cambourne is heaving and St Ives is not.
We believe people use fuel costs to assess whether to go to St Ives or out-of-town retail. Let's demonstrate this by looking at a village close to St Ives - say Hilton [where Cllr Bates lives].
St Ives's central car park is four miles from Hilton in a northerly direction. Morrisons' car park is six miles from Hilton in a southerly direction. So if a person decides to go to Morrisons instead of St Ives for a medium-sized shop (one to two hours) then the extra mileage to and from Morrisons is four miles.
For a modern family car in 2014 [when charges are set to double] we estimate four miles will cost about 40 pence. In 2014 (double 2011 fees) the car parking charge in St Ives would be 200p. This means there is a loss to that person of 160p if they come to St Ives. (Even for an hour's stay, it will be more expensive to come to St Ives - about 60p.)
If Cllr Bates and his colleagues base their debate on car parking charges on the full cost of car travel per mile (60 to 100p per mile) then we believe they will not correctly predict the behaviour of St Ives customers.
If they double car parking charges in 2014 they will be responsible for driving St Ives's customers to the nearby out-of-town retail. This could mark the end of St Ives as a market town with a thriving retail sector.
JANE and RICHARD WATERS