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Town centre free car parking reduced to one hour next month

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WESTBURY town councillors have ratified their recommendation to reduce the free parking in the town down from two hours to just one hour. Some councillors had reservations about the action, which is being made to reduce town council spending on car parks following changes made by Wiltshire Council. 

Wiltshire Council implemented parking changes from 1st April, including raising car parking charges by 10p hour, which is yet to be implemented. Once it comes into operation, it could cost Westbury Town Council approximately £42,000 against a budget of £35,000 to continue to pay for two hours of free parking in all three of Westbury’s town centre car parks. 

The recommendation was initially made at the highways, planning and development (HP&D) committee meeting of the town council last month, and went to the full town council on Monday night (4th July) for approval. 

The mayor, cllr Sheila Kimmins, asked if the town council could make a compromise on the free parking decision. The town council had already agreed to look at a potential for an e-bus to operate in the town and cllr Kimmins said she wants this to be in place before the free parking is reduced. 

Cllr Kimmins said, “Seeing that we have voted at this meeting to look at the e-bus in more detail, I’d like to propose that we continue to provide two hours of free parking for just a year until the costing and viability of the e-bus is sorted, so we have an eco-friendlier alternative to offer residents.” 

Cllr Matt Dean said that he has not experienced any backlash over councillors’ recommendation two weeks ago. 

“My view is that the number of people who actually use the two hours service is fairly minimal”, cllr Dean said. “I haven’t had any residents at all – not one – who has contacted me to complain that the service is being cut. I regularly shop in the high street and no shop owner or manger has approached me to talk about this.  

“I do feel that if we are serious about climate change, air quality and saving money, then every little helps and we should try to reduce the number of cars that frequent the town. I also think there is a question about whether this council should provide any aspect of free parking in the town.” 

Cllr Ward Jones said, “Cllr Dean is right – the provision of one hour is totally appropriate as it allows people to pop into shops within the town centre. The majority of people use it for things like this or appointments, so one hour is plenty.” 

Cllr Jane Russ added, “I don’t think we should be supporting cars in the town centre at all.” 

Cllr Duncan Hamilton-Sheen said, “We agreed one hour because there were a number of councillors missing from that meeting through absence – if they’d been at the meeting, we would have gone for no free parking at all.  

“As a member of the climate emergency sub-committee of this council, I feel that we are sending out a contradictory message to people – we are saying ‘We don’t want an incinerator’, and ‘We don’t want pollution’, but then we are saying ‘Please drive your cars into our town centre and we’ll even pay the parking for you! 

“This is wrong I feel, and to change what we said would also be wrong. Rather than spending £30,000- £40,000 we should actually focus on installing electric car charging points to encourage people with electric vehicles to visit the town centre- not petrol and diesel vehicles. If we are trying to help anyone, we should be trying to help those that are trying to help Westbury.” 

Traders “hanging on by shoestrings” 

Cllr Gordon King said, “I was very much in favour of two hours to help boost the trade in the town, as some traders are hanging on by shoestrings. While we should be doing our most to encourage less car use in general, we should also be sticking to our promise to help local traders and I don’t think reducing the free car parking provision will accomplish this.  

“This council in the past has been absolutely committed to maintaining the economic viability of our town centre. I won’t be pushing for the two hours at it seems this battle was lost at the last meeting of hp&d and I’m satisfied with providing just one hour of free parking as we are still providing something for the town.” 

Phil McMullen, grants officer for Westbury Town Council said, “An important point to make is that going down to one hour of free parking means we would have to change all the ‘Welcome to Westbury’ signs that we have just installed – which would come at a substantial cost.” 

The ‘Welcome to Westbury’ signs currently state that the town council provides two hours of free parking and the town council agreed to advertise this at a cost in January. 

Cllr Jane Russ said, “Our savings may now look relatively small now that we know we will have to replace the signs that we only just installed at the start of this year.” 

At the vote, the majority of councillors agreed that the free parking provision in town centre car parks should be reduced from two hours to one hour, which will come into operation from the 31st of July. The council hope to update the town signs as soon as is possible.

 

 

 

 

 

One Response to Town centre free car parking reduced to one hour next month

  1. SimonP

    August 4, 2022 at 2:15 pm

    What a complete load of nonsense this is.

    I pay council tax, a portion of which goes to the town council, who then give some of that portion to Wiltshire Council so that Westbury Town Council can tell people they’re generously providing “free” parking.

    There is NO free parking. Even if every car park in the county was free all day every day we would still be paying for them out of our taxes!