THE VALE OF GLAMORGAN COUNCIL
CABINET: 21ST SEPTEMBER, 2015
REFERENCE FROM SCRUTINY COMMITTEE (ECONOMY AND ENVIRONMENT): 1ST SEPTEMBER, 2015
“ CAR PARK CHARGING PROPOSALS - PHASE 1 (REF) -
Prior to consideration of the report the Chairman commenced by advising all present that the Committee had been aware for some time that car parking proposals were being developed and had requested under the Committee’s Work Programme that any report, when available, be brought before the Committee for consideration. In view of the issue the Chairman had also requested that members of the public be afforded the opportunity to make representations on the matter, which had been duly noted on the Committee’s agenda for the meeting.
All present were informed that the Scrutiny Committee was a formal meeting of the Council to be dealt with in accordance with the Council’s Constitution and it was important to note that it was a meeting held in public not a public meeting. The Committee was also able to make recommendations and suggestions to the Cabinet if it wished to do so. The Chairman had also received two Call-Ins on the matter which she had refused on the grounds that the report had been referred to the Scrutiny Committee for comment and consideration prior to any decisions of Cabinet being implemented. The Leader of the Council (with permission to speak) and the Director of Environment and Housing Services confirmed that that was indeed the position. Furthermore the Chairman stated that the matter had already been on the Committee’s agenda as part of the Committee’s Forward Work Programme.
The Chairman also referred to a copy of petition that she had received which had been addressed to the Leader and the Gem newspaper and that she was aware that all Members of the Council had also received similar copies.
With regard to the format of the proceedings in respect of the issue, the Chairman advised of the following:-
- The Director of Environment and Housing Services would provide an overview of the report with the Cabinet Members for Visible and Leisure Services, Regeneration and the Leader of the Council responding as appropriate
- Three members of the public had also expressed an interest to make representations to the Committee, Mr. Alan John on behalf of the Chamber of Trade for Cowbridge, Mr. David Morgan a resident of Cowbridge and Mr. David Elliott on behalf of the traders of Barry. Speakers had been allocated three minutes to make their representations but the Chairman stated that she would be happy to allow more latitude if required.
- Elected Members of the Council who were not Members of the Committee would then be afforded the opportunity to make their representations prior to the Members of the Committee discussing the matter.
The Director commenced by advising that the Cabinet had considered the report at its meeting on 27th July, 2015 and had referred the report to the Scrutiny Committee for consideration and comment. At this point he also reiterated the Chairman’s statement that no decision would be implemented until the Committee had considered the report and their comments fed back to the Cabinet. As background to the issue the Director advised that the Cabinet report of 25th February, 2013 had indicated a number of proposed savings which included
- V1 Car Parking Full - roll out of town centre car parking income charges £340,000 saving for 2013/14
- V7 On-Street Parking Meters - a new initiative to charge for on-street parking at several locations. £100,000 for 2014/15.
The implementation of the proposed savings in relation to town centre car parking charges however had not been made, which had resulted in a shortfall in car park income of some £350,000 for the financial year 2014/15. This had been funded by a one off budget transfer from the Policy and Central Energy Recharge Budgets. It was anticipated that there would be a further shortfall in 2015/16 as a result of additional works required to update the original off-street / on-street parking survey report. The delay in the implementation of charging would provide a part-year effect on the 2015/16 budget which would likely leave a further shortfall in car park income of some £250,000 to £300,000 for which a budget would need to be identified. It was essential that the implementation of town centre car parking charges was addressed in order to ensure that the proposed savings were realised and that identified budget targets were met as soon as possible. Given the increase in financial challenges facing the Council over the next three years, this was particularly critical as it was estimated that the Council would need to find savings of some £25 million.
Paragraph 6 of the report detailed the current off-street seasonal parking charge regime that existed. The Council currently charged for parking at a number of its coastal car parks but did not charge at its town centre facilities, nor did the Council charge for on-street parking within town centres. The current coastal car parks where charges were being made included:
- Harbour Road, Barry Island
- Nell’s Point, Barry Island
- Rivermouth, Ogmore-by-Sea
- Brig-y-Don, Ogmore-by-Sea
- Cymlau, Southerndown.
The daily charges for parking at the above coastal car parks were seasonal and varied depending on the individual car park and month of the year. At present, vehicles displaying a disability badge parked for free in all the car parks. The current tariffs for each car park during the summer season were summarised on the report as below:
From 15th March to 30th September:
- Rivermouth, Harbour Road, Cymlau, Nell's Point and Brig-y-don:
All day parking prices (8am - 11pm)
0 - 1 hour £1.00
1+ hours £5.00
Buses / coaches £10.00
Arriving after 4pm parking prices (4pm - 11pm)
0 - 7 hours £2.00
Buses / coaches £5.00
* Blue badge holders are exempt / Solo Motorcycles are free of charge
From 1st October to 14th March:
- Harbour Road and Nell’s Point:
- Rivermouth, Brig-y-don and Cymlau:
All day parking prices (8am - 11pm)
0 - 12 hours £2.00
Buses / coaches £10.00
* Blue badge holders are exempt / Solo Motorcycles are free of charge
The above coastal car parks were subject to an off-street parking order referred to as “The Vale of Glamorgan Council (Off-Street Parking Places) (Civil Enforcement) Order 2013”; which enabled enforcement of parking charges to be undertaken via the Council's Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) Powers, the details for which were also contained in the report.
The existing town centre car parks at The Butts and Town Hall in Cowbridge and the Kendrick Road, Thompson Street, Wyndham Street and the Multi-storey in Barry were also included within 'The Vale of Glamorgan Council (Off-Street Parking Places) (Civil Enforcement) Order 2013', however, these car parks were currently identified as free with no legal provision to allow for charging and enforcement via CPE Powers at the present time.
The existing car parks located at Porthkerry Country Park and Cosmeston Lakes Country Park fell outside the scope of the report and the Director advised that a separate report would be presented to Cabinet in the near future in relation to the potential introduction of car parking charges at these Country Parks.
With regard to residents only parking schemes, the Council currently operated such a scheme predominantly in the town centre areas of Barry and Penarth, which was currently a free service. Although there was a heavy demand from residents for the Council to extend the residents only parking facilities, the Vale had not supported this addition due to the large costs involved in any introduction. It was, however, noted that many local authorities charged for the provision of residents only parking permits and officers would be investigating and reviewing the introduction of charging regimes for both future resident only parking permits and new residents only parking schemes as part of the Reshaping Services Programme.
The Capita report entitled “Off-street / on-street car parking study” had been commissioned in July 2013 was available within the Members’ Room which detailed off-street / on-street car parking for the following areas:
- Barry Town Centre
- Barry Charging Options
- Cowbridge Town Centre
- Cowbridge Conclusions
- Car Park Charging Methods
- Car Park Charging Examples and Comparisons
- Car Sharing and Park and Ride.
An addendum report to the original had also been completed in June 2015 to review and update the 2013 report.
It was noted that the Capita report had identified that Barry had an abundance of parking with ample on-street parking for shoppers and residents close to the town centre. The Capita report had concluded that introducing parking charges should result in Kendrick Road and Thompson Street car parks being used more as a short stay car park, with Wyndham Street car park continuing to be used as the main Barry shopper car park comprising of only a small number of long stay users.
The lower levels of the multi-storey car park would be used as a short stay car park for the shops nearby and the upper levels as free long stay parking.
With regard to Cowbridge, the majority of parking spaces in Cowbridge Town Centre were provided in car parks. A total of 1,100 spaces approximately with 700 of these spaces being surfaced car parks, with most being marked out. 400 spaces however were in unsurfaced areas that served as car parks.
Although it was noted that there appeared to be enough parking spaces for the demand, it was evident that some must be for suppressed demand for short stay parking.
The addendum report to Off-Street / On-Street Car Parking Study covered
- the review and update of the 2013 report
- car parking charging methods
- a charging structure
- price sensitivity review.
The conclusions of the report generally indicated that the recommendations within the original December 2013 report were still valid. However, it was recognised that there was the potential for regeneration of the Cowbridge Cattle Market / Butts area within Cowbridge and had made recommendations should these regeneration proposals be implemented in the future.
The review also considered the use of Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology but identified that investment in such equipment and ongoing operational costs were likely to prove economically ineffective given the general small size of most car parks in Barry and Cowbridge. The recommended option was therefore the introduction of coin with card payment pay and display meters as well as the option to pay by phone and ‘App’ systems which was currently available in the Council’s seasonal car parks.
The estimated implementation costs were provided in Table 3.1 of the report with it further being recommended that it would be an opportune time to review the use of cash in pay and display machines prior to the introduction of the new £1 coin in 2017 when machines would need to be adapted.
The charging structure and tariffs for car parking had been reviewed and compared with comparable towns resulting in a recommended charging regime for the Vale’s town centre car parks. This charging structure was in general aimed at discouraging all day parking and turnover of spaces in short stay car parks. However, the report also recognised the need to support an element of long stay usage in both Barry and Cowbridge, identifying the car parks at Cowbridge Town Hall and the multi storey in Barry as where provision should be made for long stay usage.
The Director, in advising the Committee, stated that the Capita report December 2013 and its Addendum June 2015 identified that there were significant benefits to introducing off-street parking charges in terms of managing and controlling turnover within an individual car park to obtain to optimum usage. With regard to on-street parking, the report stated that, particularly for Barry, the set up costs would be significantly higher than those for off-street car parks irrespective of any charging structure. This was due to the higher number of on-street parking spaces in Barry Town Centre as opposed to Cowbridge and the number of pay and display machines required. The income from any on-street parking in both Barry and Cowbridge was also likely to be low when compared to the income that could be potentially generated from off-street parking in both areas. As a result of this information and the probable outcomes identified in the Capita study, it was considered appropriate not to proceed with on-street parking charges at this time. It was also considered to be beneficial to delay the consideration of any on-street parking charges until such a time that a charging regime for both future “residents only permits” and new “residents only parking” schemes had been considered. This would enable the consideration of any parking redistribution which may occur within residential areas. The Director stated that the matter of on-street parking would be subject to a future report to Cabinet.
In order to control parking, the report considered that it was justifiable to take on at least one additional Civil Parking Enforcement Officer (CEO) on a permanent basis to control parking in Barry and Cowbridge Town Centre car parks, the cost of which would be off-set by the PCNs issued to enforce the new off-street parking restrictions implemented.
Paragraph 61 of the report referred to it being considered appropriate to implement the recommendations for an additional seasonal CEO for the six months from Easter to Summer at the earliest opportunity. The report also referred to other alternative car parking charging methods which had been considered e.g. Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) and ANPR as methods of charging that the Council’s existing pay and display car parks and those proposed to be introduced as part of the report. It was however noted that ANPR could not be used by local authorities until legislation provided. The technology was currently being used in private car parks but was not available for local authorities.
The Capita report and Addendum identified two charging structures for either short stay or long stay parking in Barry and Cowbridge Town Centre car parks, which were considered comparable to other towns in South Wales. Members were further informed that there were only two other local authorities in Wales that did not charge for car parking, namely Blaenau Gwent and Torfaen.
Based on the above considerations and principles, it was recommended that the standard charge levels and tariffs as identified in table 2 below are introduced to encourage and promote short stay parking in Kendrick Road car park, Barry; Thompson Street car park, Barry, Wyndham Street car park, Barry; Butts car park Cowbridge and Town Hall car park, Cowbridge.
An analysis of the income generated from the proposed charging structure was referred to as table 3 below
|| Barry Off-Street
|| Cowbridge Off-Street
| UPFRONT COSTS
(Funded from reserve)
Purchase of Machines,
signs & lines
| ANNUAL INCOME & COSTS
| Gross Income Excl VAT
| Costs of operation
| Projected Net Annual Income
The Director, in conclusion, advised that the recommended charging structure was considered to offer affordable proportionate tariffs to meet the needs of the town centre environment whilst achieving the maximum income to offset the costs of operating, maintaining and enforcing the proper use of the car parks that the Council needed to address. Income generated from car park charges and the level of parking in town centre car parks would however need to be reviewed annually and adjusted to ensure the optimum charging structure and usage of individual car parks was achieved in future years. A further report would also be presented to Cabinet in relation to the potential for the introduction of car parking charges at Porthkerry Country Park and Cosmeston Lakes Country Park. At this point, the Members of the Committee requested that any reports dealing with any proposed car parking charges be referred for consideration by the Scrutiny Committee prior to any approval being given.
The Operational Manager for Highways and Engineering also present stated that the Council could not sustain its current budget issues without implementing car parking charges. The Department was also currently involved in part-night street lighting as well as looking at further ways to identify savings through the Council Reshaping Services Programme. For Members’ information, he took the opportunity to advise on two examples of spends to date, that over £150,000 had recently been spent on the Cliff Top Car Park at Penarth and approximately £40,000 on essential electrical works at Court Road, Barry car park. These and other car park costs would continue in future years and funding was required in order to undertake appropriate maintenance. He also referred to the investment that the Council was making, in particular to the proposals for the High Street / Broad Street district shopping centre, which were to include car parking facilities plus additional spaces for over 40 parking bays, new and improved pedestrian crossing facilities and improved facilities for cyclists. In his opinion, the report for Phase 1 set out a clear and balanced view for consideration and that the charging regime proposed was intended to improve and assist accessibility to town centres. Both of the town centres had good transport links and the concerns with regard to footfall would be monitored.
Further consultation would also be required to be undertaken in relation to the Road Traffic Orders that would be needed. Following Cabinet approval of the proposals, the existing Orders would be required to be amended, with the Council having to give notice in the press of 21 days, with any objections being submitted as part of that process. Should any objections be submitted, a further Cabinet report would also be required.
The Cabinet Member for Visible and Leisure Services (with permission to speak) stated that ‘No one likes car parking charges but the Council has to face the reality of the situation it is in, in relation to its ever reducing budget.’ By way of background he advised that the issue had been discussed in 2013 and at that time opposition Members had advised that car parking charges needed to be introduced. Also in 2013 Members had met with the Cowbridge Chamber of Trade who wished to see car parking charging in the Town Hall car park as a result of a number of commuters who regularly left their cars there for the whole day, which meant that visitors could not park to shop. At that time the suggestion made was for was no parking charges for the first two hours, however, it was important to reiterate that the Council had to find some £25 million and the car parking charges would contribute to the cost of providing car parks.
He further stated that there was no such thing as ‘free car parking’, that the Council was currently spending over £100,000 on their upkeep with an ever reducing budget and that if the proposals were not accepted, it could mean that the Council may have to consider not providing car parking facilities as it was not a statutory function.
In response to a query regarding the length of time the report had taken to come before the Committee, he stated that officers had been considering a number of options. Suggestions for alternative methods had also been considered.
The Leader of the Council ( with permission to speak) stated that ANPR, in his view, would be more appropriate but at this moment in time the Council was unable to introduce such a charging regime as Local Authorities were prohibited to introduce this method under current legislation. It could however, be possible that the Council could set up an ‘arm’s length’ company to provide such a service which was an option that could be pursued. The Leader also reiterated the Cabinet Member for Visible and Leisure Services’ statement that the actual cost of providing car parks within the Vale was a considerable amount of money which it would not be able to maintain with diminishing budgets.
The Consultant’s report also clearly advised that a car parking charging regime should be introduced and it was important to note that the Council was aware that there were a number of cars parked in Cowbridge and Barry on a daily basis with commuters commuting to various other areas e.g. Cardiff. This therefore did not allow the opportunity for visitors to park their cars in and around the towns to shop and was causing considerable frustration in the areas as a result. Other alternatives he suggested would be to increase the Council Tax to assist the Council with its reducing finances, however he reminded Members of the Reshaping Services Agenda that was currently taking place in order to consider the best ways of providing services and options for income generation.
The Cabinet Member for Regeneration (with permission to speak) stated that she had heard lots of concerns regarding access in respect of the vitality and vibrancy of towns, and stated that the Cabinet worked closely with officers of different sections to deliver on this. The Council had developed a Town Centre Framework, a Destination Management Plan and had also adopted a place development approach rather than a one size fits all. The Cabinet Member took the opportunity to hand out for Members’ information, a copy of a graph detailing the financial position of local government in Wales as set out by the Wales Audit Office which identified that an increase in the provision of social care services and protection of education would result in other services having to be “squeezed”. In her view, the Council currently had an excellent events programme, it had invested considerable money into tourism, appointed a Town Centre Manager, there was work currently ongoing at Holton Road renewal area and new town centre loan schemes had been introduced. The Council had also worked closely with a group in Cowbridge regarding the Cattle Market development and the Creative Rural Communities arm of the Council was working closely within the rural Vale on local schemes which would, however, have to be match funded. The Christmas lights provided throughout the Vale had also been judged as the best in Wales in 2014.
In conclusion, the Cabinet Member stated that the Council had considerable priorities to balance and that a number of these services were not statutory. It was understandable that it was not an easy situation for anyone and advised that she was aware that a number of Chambers of Trade were finding it difficult to keep going, she understood that in some recent meetings only three members of the Chamber of Trade were present. However, she took the opportunity to reiterate the positive work that was being undertaken in the difficult financial climate and to the Council’s commitment with the investment of a Town Centre Manager. As a result of the proposals there could be opportunities for other organisations to develop as well as increasing Active Travel. She had recently attended a meeting with businesses in Cowbridge and took the opportunity to again offer her presence at future meetings with traders to talk about rejuvenating town centres and work together with that as a common purpose.
Following the presentations by the Cabinet Members and the officers the Chairman asked the first public speaker to come forward. Mr. Alun John represented the Cowbridge Chamber of Trade and a copy of his representations had also been tabled at the meeting for Members’ information and to assist the debate. Mr. John commenced by thanking the Committee for the opportunity to address the meeting advising that the issue of car parking was a contentious issue within the town and one that was discussed regularly at Chamber of Trade meetings. He advised that in the past officers had been present at Chamber of Trade meetings to discuss the issue but that on the last occasion, the Chamber had been assured that prior to any decision being made they would be consulted and their opinions taken into account when and if a decision on any changes to the situation were to be made.
The Chamber was therefore extremely disappointed that no consultation had taken place prior to the decisions of Cabinet on 27th July, 2015. They had a number of concerns about the proposals, particularly as the shops and businesses in Cowbridge had seen a substantial drop in footfall over the last year. He stated that a number of the shops were closing and many of the existing shops had struggled to survive. They believed that the car parking situation should be approached holistically and that a number of issues had not been addressed during the making of such decisions. These included displacement, the future of the Cowbridge Cattle Market site, private car parking, floored figures and inconsistency.
With regard to displacement, he stated that the businesses in Cowbridge employed a substantial number of people, many of whom were employed on shop worker or secretarial wages and would not be able to afford to pay the charges proposed, resulting in either a loss of staff who would be difficult to replace or forcing the existing staff to park in the side streets, making an already annoying situation for residents even worse. The Chamber of Trade had however, been delighted that the Council had supported the proposals for the Cowbridge Cattle Market site but believed that any consultation and decision on car parking in the town as a whole should include proposals for that site as well as the Town Hall and the Butts.
With regard to private parking, this was very much at the discretion of the owner and in referring to himself as a business owner, he stated that he would have to reassess his position in relation to the provision of car parking for the general public in light of the proposals if agreed. The Chamber of Trade not only believed that the figures reported in the report were flawed but that they were concerned with the inconsistency in the approach, in that the Council was proposing the introduction of car parking charges in Cowbridge and Barry and not Llantwit Major, Penarth and other areas of the Vale.
In concluding his representations, he stated that as a Chamber they were delighted that the Council was looking at ways to increase the turnover of vehicles in the car parks and to discourage the perceived use of the Town Hall car park for lift sharing and by sixth formers from the school. However, they were concerned in their view by the premature introduction of car parking charges on the future of their businesses without prior consultation.
Mr. David Morgan advised that he was making his comments in respect of his professional planning and transportation background and as a resident of Cowbridge. He advised that there was currently limited off-street parking in Cowbridge and that the car park should be intended for visitors and not for all day commuters parking. He stated that Cowbridge was different from Barry and should be treated as a different case. The pattern of shopping was different and the town centre was suffering badly with people parking all day and not using the town. In his view the need to generate money should not prejudice the health of the town centre and suggested that one proposal could be for free parking for up to two hours. There had been no consultation on the recommendations and no dialogue with residents and businesses or the Town Council within Cowbridge. Consultation could, in his view, certainly be undertaken within the required timescales and that should be done without the proposals being provided as a fait accompli.
Mr. David Elliott, representing traders of Holton Road and who was also a trader himself, advised that they had been talking to shoppers and the overwhelming consensus from over 1,500 local people was that they would not pay for parking and would take their custom elsewhere. As a result the traders would suffer as well as local residents who would have to travel greater distances for goods and services. He referred to the many major outlets that local traders had to compete with around the outskirts of Barry that benefited from free car parking, who offered the same or similar products and services as traders within the town. He too commented on the lack of consultation, in particular the lack of consultation with traders. He stated that the Council consulted with the community on numerous minor plans but that as this was a major and damaging plan, the community had not had a voice. Independent traders from Barry and Cowbridge had also signed a petition and a letter against the planned parking charges and Cowbridge had also collected approximately 1,500 signatures in the last couple of weeks. The constant battle of trying to encourage shoppers to the town, competing with out of town shopping and the internet and better shopping at other towns and cities would be further doubled by the introduction of car parking charges. He stated that the traders would like to work with the Council and form a working group to formally discuss plans before implementation. He referred to a recent news story in West Wales where all four ticket machines in Cardigan had been vandalised last month and business leaders had said that this had led to a ‘noticeable rise in footfall’. The traders of Holton Road requested that genuine consultation takes place as they feel the Council has a duty to listen to the community.
All three public speakers thanked the Committee and the Chairman for the opportunity to present to Members. The Chairman then referred to a further representation that had been received from Councillor Dr. Ian Johnson who was unable to attend the meeting, the written representations had subsequently been tabled for information. In the main the representations referred to car parking charges for the Barry area and to, in his view, the inadequate consultation with local residents and shop keepers. He referred to previous car parking schemes that had been proposed over the years and would urge consultation takes place before proceeding.
Councillor Nic Hodges, a Member of the Vale Council, but not a Member of the Scrutiny Committee, was then afforded the opportunity to make his representations. Councillor Hodges commenced by advising that although he visited Cowbridge on a regular basis he would, in the main, speak in relation to car parking charges for the Barry Town Centre. He stated that Barry Town Centre did not have the range of shops to encourage visitors from outside the area and he did not see a considerable number of people from outside the area visiting Barry. If anyone wished to just ‘pop in’ to Barry Island they could only do that for an hour and by the time they found a parking space and bought a cup of coffee etc., the time would be up. He suggested that the car parking charge of £1 for up to an hour be increased for use for up to two hours. He acknowledged that reference had been made to a future report in relation to country parks and he hoped that that would be presented to the Scrutiny Committee for its consideration prior to any decisions being made. Councillor Hodges called for a consistent approach in relation to car parking charges as many of the areas referred to in the report were governed by the vagaries of the weather.
During his representations the Chairman advised that when existing car parking charges were discussed in relation to Barry Island, with the Committee’s approval she had recommended that the one hour proposal be increased to two hours and it had subsequently been approved by the Cabinet. In response the Director stated that as a direct result of that decision, the income received had been substantially reduced from previous years.
The Leader also, in referring to the petitions and letters that had been received, stated that he was aware that a letter had been sent but he had not personally received the one in relation to Cowbridge. He reiterated the fact that a number of commuters currently took a number of the spaces on a daily basis thereby not allowing visitors the opportunity to visit the town centre. Spaces were also being taken up by staff outside the shops and he questioned whether the shop owners would be happy to accept that when in fact they should be freeing up the spaces for shoppers to visit the stores. In referring to a question as to why only Barry and Cowbridge were being addressed, the response was that these were the only car parks the Council had control over.
A Member for Penarth stated that there was no car park in the town centre of Penarth run by the Council and she reiterated the concerns that staff and commuters regularly utilised spaces on a daily basis, advising that in Penarth some traders’ vans remained outside the businesses all day. A bigger issue for visitors to Penarth was the inability to find a parking space and she suggested that a lack of available spaces was arguably a bigger issue than a small parking charge.
Following the presentation of the representations, the Chairman thanked all for their input and then asked Scrutiny Committee Members to consider the information before them. Following a request as to when the proposal would be implemented if approved, Members were informed that this would depend on the objections process with an estimate being implementation later in the calendar year.
A Ward Member for Cowbridge stated that short term parking charges would have an adverse effect on businesses in Cowbridge and that in his view many points had not been evaluated such as the effect of long stay parking displacement to residential streets. He stated that he had been reassured that no decision had been made following Cabinet’s consideration in July until after the Scrutiny Committee had considered the report. He advised that the Conservative Administration in 2005 had indeed agreed in principle to introduce car parking charges, however, following consultation those proposals had not been implemented. Town centre businesses had been under considerable financial pressure over the years which, he stated, had been recognised by the Westminster Government who had considered the possibility of intervening and stopping Councils in England using car parking charges as revenue streams. Although he stated his comments that he would make would relate to both Barry and Cowbridge, he would concentrate in the main in relation to Cowbridge. The Member referred to the petition by the 74 businesses and referred to Mr. John’s representations about the current town centre trading situation, the lack of consultation, the need for support and the Chamber of Trade’s concerns that the proposed car parking charges would add to their difficulties rather than assisting them.
The Town Council had also not been consulted on the proposal and therefore would not be able to provide a view on the report which had only been available during the summer recess. Although the report stated that no consultation had been undertaken with local Members as it was a Council wide matter, the report had long term implications for most wards although it was only Cowbridge and Barry Wards that were being immediately affected and that the local members for those wards should in his view have been consulted. He did however, recognise that there was a problem with long stay vehicles reducing the turnover of spaces in the Cowbridge Town Hall car park and that this needed to be addressed but that, in his view, it was not necessary to be addressed with the charging regime proposed. Also in the locality some residential streets already had problems with long term parking and residents were concerned that this situation would become dire with the displacement of long term parkers to residential streets.
In referring specifically to the report and the Council website, the Member advised that the Capita report stated that 515 Council owned spaces were available whereas the Council’s website indicated approximately 800 public car parking spaces were available. The report also referred to Town Hall long term and short term car parks but in practice there was no difference as the time of stay was not specified nor controlled. The only proposals to increase car parking capacity in Cowbridge were those associated with the development of the Cowbridge Cattle Market site and the area around the Town Hall which Capita calculated would provide 21 more car parking spaces. However, with increased housing provision (Darren Farm Development) under the LDP for Cowbridge and the surrounding area, the problem of parking congestion in his view would get worse. The Member requested that further consultation be undertaken on the car park charging report taking in to account the responses that had been received before finalising any recommendations. However, in his view, if the Cabinet were not minded to undertake this consultation the schedule of car parking charges should be reviewed with a number of hours of free parking being proposed to encourage visitors. He had also been informed that Waitrose, having not been consulted on the proposals, had intimated that they had advised that if charges were introduced they would have to replicate similar charges in order to support their business.
In response, the Leader advised that it was a difficult situation and the decision to introduce car parking charges had been agreed as part of the budget in 2013. It was not going to be the only revenue stream but it was one that the Council had no option but to consider. The upkeep of car parks had to be maintained and car parking charges would assist with ongoing maintenance issues and referred to the neighbouring Council of Cardiff who had made over £3 million in car parking charges in the current year.
The Vice-Chairman, in considering the report, stated that in his calculations over over 40% of the car parking spaces were taken up by staff rather than visitors in the town centres. He too was concerned about the reference to no consultation being undertaken and requested information in relation to the consultation process. The Director advised that there was no statutory requirement to consult although following the Cabinet decision if approved, a statutory consultation process would commence in relation to the Traffic Regulation Orders.
In referring to the suggestion of not charging for the first two hours, the Director stated that this would have a considerable impact on the level of income that could be received. The proposals would also assist visitors so that those who are commuting would have to pay all day or find alternative provision as one of the purposes of the charges was to encourage visitors and regeneration to the town.
Members, although appreciating the amount of work that had been undertaken in putting together the proposals, stated that it was an impossible task for officers and the Council in the current financial climate. A local Member for Barry further stated that in relation to Barry Island, the charging regime did need to be reviewed as all investment made in the area could be in danger of being undermined. There was also the need to address parking in the residential areas. The Director stated that the first stage had been to consider Barry Town Centre before further consideration in relation to Barry Island. However, he confirmed that it was his intention to review the impact of the charges if implemented on the town centres and to feedback that information.
A Member also questioned the issue of displacement and whether the parking regime would actually put people off visiting town centres. They were concerned about the charging for the area as, in his view, charging in a town centre that was thriving may be a good idea but for town centres that required support this may not be the ideal way forward. However, in order to achieve savings the suggestion of raising the Council Tax would mean that by not charging visitors for car parking there would be a detriment to the tax payer. A number of Members were concerned as to the repeated reference to the lack of consultation and agreed that more in-depth discussions should have been held. Further reference was made to the Welsh Government report 2015 on the impact on town centre footfall, with a view that town centre stakeholders should be involved in the local economy and provided with the opportunity to put forward their thoughts and suggestions.
A local Ward Member for Penarth also stated that they were horrified to hear that people were parking free all day long and that employers were letting their staff park in the street as opposed to encouraging visitors to their businesses. With regard to the car parking by the school children, this also needed to be looked into and that spaces should be available for those visiting the town centres.
Although all Members were aware of the financial situation facing the Council, they were concerned that consultation had not taken place with local stakeholders ( e.g. Chamber of trade), traders and residents.
Thus, following full consideration of the report and the representations received and made at the meeting, it was unanimously
RECOMMENDED - T H A T Cabinet be requested to consider the comments made at the meeting by members of the public and the Scrutiny Committee, with particular regard to the issue of local consultation and that the management of car parking, the cost of its implementation, management and maintenance and car parking charges be reviewed in light of the ongoing reduction in Council funding.
Reason for recommendation
In light of the information discussed at the meeting and in order that the issue of car parking charges can be further looked at having particular regard to the matter of appropriate consultation.”