As the Times reported last week [July 13], proposed parking charges at Dunorlan Park took the Friends of Dunorlan Park by surprise and sparked a petition.
The Finance and Governance Cabinet Advisory Board committee met last week to discuss the proposed charges put forward by finance chief Cllr Andrew Hickey on the new cross-party Borough Partnership, as part of what the coalition Cabinet calls its ‘inherited deficit reduction plan’.
Labour leader Cllr Hugo Pound (Sherwood), who sits on the Borough Partnership’s Cabinet told last week’s committee meeting: “I think the sense is that [a parking charge at Dunorlan] is a step too far and that we should be having more discussion… with the Friends of Dunorlan and anticipating a better understanding of the pricing structure.”
Cllr Andrew Hickey, the Cabinet member in charge of finance and author of the deficit reduction plan, accepted a recommendation to remove these charges from the committee vote at last week’s meeting (July 12) so that a consultation can take place.
However, he added: “It will be considered as part of the (2022/23) budget process toward the end of this year.”
…but other planned charges spark more petitions
Town councillors, residents in Paddock Wood and Southborough, and the MP for Tunbridge Wells have all criticised plans to introduce parking charges in the two towns, as petitions are launched against the proposals.
As part of the Borough Partnership’s deficit reduction plan, free parking for the first hour in Paddock Wood and the first two hours in Southborough are to be scrapped in favour of a 50 pence per hour charge.
A Change.org petition calling to ‘Keep One-hour free parking in Paddock Wood’ has generated nearly 1,000 signatures after being set up last week, and a similar ‘Keep Yew Tree Parking Two Hours Free’ in Southborough has also garnered a similar number of signatures.
And MP for Tunbridge Wells, Greg Clark, has also slammed the move and has urged the Borough partnership to drop the plan.
Writing in this week’s Times, Greg Clark said the moves were a ‘mistake’.
“We need the small businesses in our towns to attract more customers, not fewer, if they are to be vibrant and attractive,” he said.
“As well as damaging the vitality of our towns I think it is a mistake financially: empty shops end up actually costing the Council more money through the loss of business rates and the impact of dilapidation.”
Councillors in both Paddock Wood and Southborough arranged protests over the plans at the weekend.
Meanwhile, an attempt to head off the parking charges in Paddock Wood failed at last week’s Finance and Governance Cabinet Advisory Board.
Guest speaker, Richard Barsley, managing director of Barsley’s department store and chairman of Paddock Wood Business Association (PWBA) told the committee he was ‘stunned’ by the proposals.
He said: “Customers lack the incentive for more considered shopping or just time for a coffee and a snack. Dwell time is crucial to many businesses in the town and the council has said it aims to promote this.”
All four Paddock Wood councillors, Matthew Bailey (Independent), Ray Moon (Labour), Rodney Atkins, and Suzie Wakeman (Alliance) spoke against the plans.
But the fees were agreed by advisory board following a majority vote, with the plans set to go before Cabinet at Tunbridge Well Borough Council tonight [July 20] for approval.