Todays meeting of Sedgemoor District Councils Community Scrutiny committee gave 100% backing to Westover residents who have campaigned for almost a year for the County Council to implement a residents parking scheme.
The committee chairman Cllr Julian Taylor (Labour, Eastover) summed up, “The 80% requirement for a scheme is too high and we agree a 51% majority in favour should trigger the imposition of a parking scheme in a given area. We also believe that anyone who doesn’t bother to vote should not be included in the % – previously abstentions were counted as no votes. We note the tardiness of Somerset County Councils response in dealing with this. We recognise the impact of planning policies which encouraged increased residential occupancy in town centres but without the required parking spaces and recomend that this should be addressed by the Local Development Framework working party with especial reference to Homes in Multiple occupancy, we accept that the District Council’s own policy of making it’s own staff park elsewhere has contributed to the parking congestion and recomend that this be reviewed in favour of ‘essential users’. We are further concerned that any parking scheme should take into account short-term visiting parking such as carers.” The committee voted unanimously to support.
‘Total lack of accountability from County’
The meeting opened with Councillor Brian Smedley (Labour, Westover) presenting and talking to a paper on the subject outlining the history. We criticised the County Council for their lack of consistency in the face of hard work by residents. “This process started almost a year ago when the Civil Parking Enforcement came in and people could no longer park near their homes and therefore asked for solutions. The County told us to identify areas under pressure -which we did, and they asked us to get petitions with signatures, which we did. In this way we identified 6 zones around Westover where a majority wanted a parking scheme. We presented this petition and a detailed report on October 3rd. Since then they have done nothing about it despite saying in March 2012 they were reviewing their policy. In February they simply moved the goalposts and increased the % requirement for these schemes to an unrealistic 80%. They failed to attend a February meeting with this committee and they’re not here today. This suggests a lack of accountability at least.”
Residents in attendance reinforced their case.
‘Musical parking places’
Andrew Holcombe of Dampiet street said, “I have lived in the town centre for 6 years and since the Parking regulations came in last june life has been unbearable. It’s like ‘musical parking places’ whereby everybody has to get out and move our cars every couple of hours. The demographics have changed and clearly the town centre is now more residential. The nearest long stay car parks are too far away for home use, looking after children carrying shopping across busy roads. The solution is simple to provide parking near peoples homes which they pay for and thereby generate a revenue stream.”
Martin Grixoni of Castle Street said he was angry that no County officers or councillors were prepared to come to give account of themselves. He said, “So far we have not been the closest crocodile to their canoe and it’s time we were!”
Tracey Dixey of Camden road said, “The situation has been made worse since the Council decided to charge it’s own staff to park .Residents are prepared to pay for permits so this delay didn’t make sense.”
Pat Morgan, also of hard pressed Camden road, said she remembered a time when the road had almost no traffic on it but now she was worried for the future and for her grandchildren. She highlighted the concern that any parking scheme needed to provide for carers who visited regularly and for a short period.
Mike Davies of Blacklands said 50-60% of cars parked were by commuters and things would get worse when Tesco was built as staff would not be able to use their own parking at busy times. He also pointed to the extra pressure at Fair time and Carnival saying sometimes he couldn’t move his car for days at a time.
Tony Hayward of King’s Square said that the situation currently made no sense. He had to set his alarm to move his car hourly to another space which was no trouble to find but there was therefore no reason he shouldn’t have left it in the same place. He said his wife was unable to allow their child to sleep in the afternoons because of the regular car movements she had to make and in doing so couldn’t leave the baby home alone. he said, “We are just moving our cars for the sake of it 6 times a day”.
Mike Cresswell of St Saviours avenue said he had been given 4 parking tickets during the time his wife was ill which he had paid. He lived in a cul de sac and people “…had no choice but to park on the road.”
David Preece of Bower Manor said, “We all live in streets where there’s 10 cars for 6 spaces. This has to be a district-wide solution.”
The members of the committee all spoke in support of the residents.
‘committee recognises the problem’
Cllr David Baker (Con, Wyndham) said he “recognised the problem, noted the issue with carers and urged greater speed from the county council”.
Cllr Mike Caswell (Con, Quantocks) said, “The car is not a luxury, it’s a necessity and Sedgemoor taking parking away from essential staff has made the situation worse.”
Cllr Steve Austen (Lab, Westover) said, “Sedgemoor should revisit the staff charging policy, look at car sharing and any solution should include provision for visitors. I speak from experience as a Housing officer and often you can end up miles from your destination. County needs to get a move on and this is desperate.”
Cllr Chris Williams (Ind, Highbridge) said, “In Burnham and Highbridge we have a similar problem which is worse with the tourist traffic and I would urge a district wide solution”
Cllr Alan Bradford (Con, North Petherton) said, “There’s a lot of frustrated people here but it;s also a problem in the villages. Another problem is the size of the garages and people using them for storage instead of cars.”
Cllr Jeff Savage (Con, Cheddar) and Cllr Julie Pay (Con, Quantocks) both added their voices to the support and the committee passed the Chairmans recommendation unanimously.
‘Next step will be after the county election’
After the meeting Cllr Smedley said, “County will clearly do nothing about this now until after the Election on May 2nd -and i suspect they never intended to. It’s our job now to see that this is on the desk and in the in-tray of the new council and the new portfolio holder as soon as the new council is decided.”