The Lib-Dem led Cabinet of the ‘Borough Partnership’ under leader Ben Chapelard, wants to increase fees for all its Council owned car parks and scrap the current free parking in Southborough and Paddock Wood.
As reported in the Times last week, residents, councillors and business owners in those two towns have opposed the plans.
Petitions have gathered several thousand signatures, and Tunbridge Wells MP Greg Clark stepped into the row last week by asking the authority to ‘drop’ the plans, which he says will damage local businesses.
At last week’s Cabinet meeting, held in the Old School Hall in Sandhurst on Wednesday (July 20), Chair of Paddock Wood Town Council, Meryl Flashman, slammed the new Borough Partnership for its lack of community engagement and consultation.
She said: “When the Cabinet was appointed, Cllr Chapelard stated that the new administration wanted to listen to and would lengthily engage with residents and business with community engagement being one of the Cabinet’s top priorities.
“Paddock Wood Town Council is telling you that it strongly objects to the proposal to remove the free parking facilities from our car parks.”
She said she had the support from the local business association, the four borough councillors that represent the town, and there was ‘very strong feeling’ about the move locally as shown by the petitions raised over the issue.
“This is local democracy in action,” she said.
“There has been no consultation on this proposal, and we only found out about it from our borough councillors.”
Cllr Dianne Hill, the Mayor of Southborough Town Council and who represents Labour on the Borough Council, also criticised the Cabinet for a lack of consultation.
She told them: “With the new Borough Partnership, we were hoping for a new relationship where Tunbridge Wells started listening to the villages and towns. Sadly, this proposal suggests otherwise.”
She added that it was ‘unbelievable’ the authority hadn’t notified them of the intentions to scrap free parking in the town, which she said would be ‘disastrous’ for Southborough.
Despite the protestations, the Cabinet approved the plans for implementation on October 1, but made it subject to a four-week public consultation that began on Monday (July 25) to allow the public to air their views.
Proposed plans to introduce fees for cars at Dunorlan Park were dropped but free parking could still be scrapped in the next budget review, but the Cabinet promised to hold a consultation before they do.
A sale of assets including the Great Hall Car Park, Mount Pleasant Avenue Car Park, the former Gateway in Grosvenor Road and land at the shooting club in Warwick Park was also approved by the Cabinet.
Following the meeting, Council Leader Ben Chapelard of the Liberal Democrats said: “Tonight, the Borough Partnership Cabinet took decisive and urgent action to tackle the multi-million pound deficit that we have inherited from the previous administration.”
On cutting services, he said:“There are no plans to cut services but if we do not act now it will be more and more difficult to protect the services that residents have come to expect from the Council.”
To take part in the consultaton on proposed parking charges then visit the website: talkingpointtunbridgewells.uk.engagementhq.com/parking-charges