Sunday 14 December 2014

An alternative to councils simply making money out of parking charges: "mixed development"

When it comes to the 'turning of assets into money', perhaps the most controversial at the moment is the District Council's attempts to sell their Knowle site:
Futures Forum: Knowle relocation project: "We’re digging into the opportunities to release assets and invest in assets to increase revenue streams."

Another controversy in the 'management of assets' is car-parking fees...

The blog entry referenced above referred to the case in Budleigh:
Budleigh Salterton Car Park – questions needing answers | East Devon Alliance
Budleigh parking: should we blame Eric Pickles? | East Devon Alliance

Whilst the District Council regularly brings down parking charges over the Christmas period
Council’s ‘£2 all day’ parking scheme to run till Christmas - News - Exmouth Journal

... it is clear that these charges are central to their income:

But the council claims its car parking revenue helps to keep council tax down and covers the cost of other important services.
The spokesperson added: “One of the points we make – and most businesses appreciate – is that car park revenue is an important funding stream for the council, which helps us to keep down council tax.
“That means that things like waste and recycling collections, parks and gardens, environmental health, the dog warden service and a host of other vital public services provided by the district council are still extremely good value, despite reductions in government funding for councils.
“It is therefore not sound economic practice for the council to waive parking fees over any period such as the first three months of the new year. It is also worth noting that the supposition that free parking solves the problems of low footfall in high streets at a stroke is not borne out by the evidence. Free spaces are often taken by commuters, leaving shoppers with a lack of spaces when they arrive to buy goods in local stores.”

SIDMOUTH: ‘Special offers’ to help solve parking problems? - View from Sidmouth

And yet cash-stapped councils are asking local tax-payers to provide some of these essential services:
SIDMOUTH: Council tax payers asked to volunteer to do jobs for free - View from Sidmouth
Futures Forum: Communities filling the budget gaps by filling the potholes...

Of course, the 'car-lobby' will not be pleased with the findings of this latest report from the RAC:
RAC Foundation - the independent motoring charity

... as extensively covered in the press last week:
Council parking 'daylight robbery' | Daily Mail Online
Motorists 'ripped off' as UK councils rake in £667m 'surplus' from parking fees | This is Money
Councils make £600m ‘profit’ from parking charges | Public Finance — official CIPFA magazine

But as pointed out, imposing fees can also be a way of controlling how people use their cars:

'The RAC also fails to take into account a likely growing demand for parking from traffic increases on our roads and the important role parking services play in reducing congestion and keeping pedestrians and motorists safe as a result.'

Council parking profits rise to 667m report finds - LocalGov

It's a very tricky balance to strike for politicians, with many not wanting to be 'controlled':

For years, the City of Toronto has been trying to get me to ride my bike to work... Planners have tried all kinds of incentives to get us to cycle more... Sadly, though, I’m no more inclined to ride a bike than ever. My reasons are pedestrian: Sweatiness, helmet hair, inability to pick up dinner and 10 kilograms of cat litter on the way home. And the weather, which is crummy half the year.
But mostly, I enjoy not having my teeth knocked out. Cycling in Toronto is so dangerous that only lunatics would do it. You can be wiped out at any moment by cars and streetcar tracks...

So stop nudging me already. I may be flawed, but I am an adult. I will not cycle in Toronto traffic. And I don’t like bullies.

I’m an adult. Stop nudging me - The Globe and Mail

And there's the perennial battle between the 'motorist' and the 'pedestrian':

Environment campaigners warned that new rules introduced today to ease parking restrictions in towns and cities will lead to an increase in traffic congestion and urban sprawl. 
Ministers described the rules as an "end to the war on the motorists"...

Easing of parking rules will lead to traffic congestion, warn campaigners | Politics | theguardian.com

So, what are the alternatives to councils simply milking their car parks?

There is Park & Ride:
'Commuter parking is clogging up Exeter' | Exeter Express and Echo
Sidmouth 'park and ride' idea progresses - News - Sidmouth Herald

There are congestion zones:
Durham Road User Charge Zone (congestion charge) - Durham County Council

There is car-sharing:
Welcome to Carshare Devon {Part of the liftshare network}
Car sharing from Sidmouth - Liftshare.com, share your ride!

There are car clubs:
Co-Cars - The Co-Operative Car Club – Car Sharing in Exeter Topsham
Exeter City Council : Car sharing and car clubs

And there is pedestrianisation:
No traffic centre “death knell” of Sidmouth claim traders - News - Sidmouth Herald
MP’s warning over Sidmouth pedestrianisation - News - Sidmouth Herald
Sidmouth pedestrianisation debate continues - News - Eastern Daily Press

But perhaps councils can have their cake and eat it...

The proposals for a multi-storey car park for the centre of Sidmouth were rejected 15 years ago:
Parking in Sidmouth - See Red

An alternative might be to have both parking and 'mixed development' - with the District Council keeping its car parks on the ground level and building housing and business units above:
Shaping the future of Port Royal, Sidmouth. | Save Our Sidmouth

To reblog proposals from last year:

Plans for Port Royal: Eastern Town then and now

Sidmouth  today is not so different to Sidmouth from 'years gone by' - which is why so many of us are attracted to the place.

There are some fine photographs of the town and environs at the English Heritage Archive (formerly the National Monuments Record ) located at the GWRailway works in Swindon. Containing about 13 million photos including aerial photos and national archaeological sites, the archive is kept chilled in a state of the art climate control building for future generations to come.
See the English Heritage at ViewFinder - Home

However, whilst most of the centre of Sidmouth remains relatively unchanged over the last century or so, the character of Eastern Town is completely different. Large car parks have replaced the former layout of small streets and alleyways, with its pubs and workshops, fisherman's cottages and small shops.

This image of Eastern Town in 1932 is from another archive available on-line:
Britain from Above | Rescue the Past

The Eastern Town, Sidmouth, 1932 | Britain from Above

Compare this with the map of the same area - 
produced recently by  Gerald Counter and Graham Cooper:

Graham Cooper, active Vision Group member, has revisited the site, reinstating York Street and other elements which used to exist in Eastern Town.  

Sidmouth, Devon. Belvedere, Port Royal, Fortfield
This would fulfil the District Council's stated aim of having 'mixed development' on the site:
Futures Forum: VGS AGM: sustainable communities in East Devon

And it might avoid this central part of Sidmouth becoming 'a retail mall and multi-storey car park'...


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