U-turn over car parking increase

IN an embarrassing about-face, Huntingdonshire District Council s cabinet has decided to have second thoughts just days after making a decision to ramp up car parking charges by two-thirds. Instead, charges are expected to rise by one-third from July, a m

IN an embarrassing about-face, Huntingdonshire District Council's cabinet has decided to have second thoughts just days after making a decision to ramp up car parking charges by two-thirds.

Instead, charges are expected to rise by one-third from July, a month later than planned, because the decision to think again will delay implementation.

The original decision last Thursday was a knee-jerk response to a scrutiny panel's request to give free parking to season-ticket holders with low-emission cars rather than the proposed 25 per cent discount.

Instead, the cabinet last week agreed to allow them half-price season tickets and to double the planned increase in charges for everyone else.

Had councillors stood by the decision, the fee for a one-hour stay in a short-stay car park would have risen from 30p to 50p. This would have negated a proposal made in January to raise the fee to 40p.

Councils and committees cannot normally revisit decisions within six months of making them. But there is provision in HDC's constitution to rescind a decision on a motion signed by seven members of the relevant body.

Most Read

Such a motion will be presented to the cabinet meeting on March 13 because the decision makes no sense. Even for the few low emission season tickets, the concession would have been worth only £12.50 a year and the charges for residents' permits for low-emission vehicles would actually have been higher.

Residents would have been charged at half the new price (paying £40) instead of 75 per cent of the original proposal (paying £37.50).

HDC has about 240 season-ticket holders in the three towns in which charges are levied - Huntingdon, St Ives and St Neots. The council estimates they include 16 low-emission vehicles.

The change would also have meant anyone parking for longer than 10 hours in Huntingdon's Riverside car park and the expanding facility at Bridge Place in Godmanchester, which are currently free, would be charged £5.30 - 10p more than the daily cost of parking at the station.

Cabinet member for finance Councillor Terry Rogers said at last week's meeting: "Part of our environmental strategy is to discourage use of cars, and part of that is to have relatively high car parking charges. But all this [the low-emission discount] will do is encourage people to buy smaller cars, when we want them to use public transport instead."

But on Monday evening, after frantic discussions with Councillor Jonathan Gray, chairman of the scrutiny panel that suggested the low-emissions scheme, HDC issued a statement saying: "The cabinet decision was to approve charging option 2 [the higher set of charges] as part of the car parking strategy action plan at its meeting on February 21, 2008.

"Upon further reflection, cabinet members have subsequently indicated that they wish to reconsider their decision further in the light of the action plan recommendations.

"An earlier consultation exercise undertaken as part of the preparation of the action plan supported the introduction of charging option 1 [the charges HDC originally intended to impose] and members are of the opinion that the views of stakeholders should be acknowledged in any final decision."

It adds: "Additionally, members of cabinet are mindful of the potential impact of the option 2 charges on the overall delivery of the car parking strategy and action plan, as part of the wider agenda relating to the local economy of our market towns and the impact on the emerging environment strategy."

Deputy leader Councillor Mike Simpson said yesterday (Tuesday): "It's something we need to step back from. I don't think anybody at the meeting had the details of option 2 in front of them. That's part of the reason we want to look at it intently.