Dunorlan parking charges inch one step closer


Controversial plans to introduce parking charges at Dunorlan Park are set for approval after councillors endorsed the proposals.

At a Cabinet Advisory Board meeting on Tuesday July 11, councillors voted four to three in favour of motorists being charged to park in the car parks.

If approved by the Tunbridge Wells Borough Council (TWBC) Cabinet at a meeting on July 27, parking enforcement will start on October 16.

While most councillors approved of the scheme, half of those residents who answered the Council survey last year firmly voiced their opposition to the ending of the “only free car park” in the town.

Of the 1,008 replies from residents, 50 per cent said they wanted the parking to be free, while 34 per cent wanted a period of free parking followed by charges.

In response to the residents who voted for no parking charges, Councillor David Osborne (Lib Dem) called the results “complete rubbish” and likened the respondents to “turkeys voting for Christmas”.

Cllr Osborne said: “Most of the data that comes out of the survey is just complete rubbish, all the stuff about how much people want to pay, who wants to pay, is nonsense, it’s like asking turkeys to vote
for Christmas.”

He went on to say: “It seems quite perverse to have a situation where people who can’t afford to own a car are being asked to subsidise those that have cars who wish to drive to the park.”

Echoing Cllr Osborne’s views was Cllr Martin Brice (Lib Dem) who explained how the 50 per cent is not representative of the whole town.

He said: “When we talk about the consultation, it is 50 per cent of respondents, not 50 per cent of residents. “These people who responded were far more likely to be car drivers, and if you say to a car driver, do you want to park for nothing, they will always say: ‘Yes, please.’ Meanwhile, everyone else has to pay for it.”

According to the consultation, 76 per cent of the respondents travelled to the park by car. Yet some Councillors raised questions about the point of a public consultation if the Council is not going to listen to its respondents.

Cllr Siobhan O’Connell (Alliance) said: “An important issue is at stake here. How do we as a Council consult residents effectively and how do we respond to their views?

“It is important that residents’ views are given due weight in our decision making, otherwise consultation becomes an exercise in box-ticking.”

The Friends of Dunorlan Park have voted to reject the plans for parking charges, and note that there is no guarantee that the money generated will be put back into the park’s maintenance.

Peter Russell, Chairman of the group told the Times: “The Friends of Dunorlan Park are disappointed with the majority vote of the Finance Committee to introduce parking charges in the park and with the resulting proposal that will go forward to Cabinet for decision.

“In particular, there was no indication that any of the money raised would directly benefit Dunorlan Park.

“The same applies to renting land out for events such as Pub in the Park.

“We also note that the budget to run the park is currently £175,000 per annum, but no further information on the breakdown of this figure has been forthcoming, although we have requested it.”

He added: “The Friends note that 50 per cent of respondents in the TWBC survey did not want car parking charges to be introduced but this seems to have been ignored in the current round of voting.”

Any income made by the scheme has been earmarked towards shrinking the Council’s deficit, which currently sits at £943,000 for 2023/24.

The Council has two options for charging to choose from, which could generate from £41,000 to over £95,000.

One option proposes having the first hour free, two hours for £2 and then an additional £1 an hour, which is estimated to generate £41,610 per year.

The other option would be to charge £1 an hour up to five hours, then £5 all day, which is estimated to generate approximately £95,206 per year.

Cllr John Francis (Labour) said in response to the options that he finds the idea of charging for parking “distasteful” but admitted the Council needs the money.

If approved by Cabinet next week, parking charges will apply to both the Pembury Road and Hall’s Hole Road car parks from 8am-6pm, each with 40 spaces including two disabled spaces which will be free of charge.

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