CEC car parking -Snow Hill Nantwich - parking charges recommenced on 15th June 2020 (1)

Cheshire East Council has refused a formal request from the Conservatives to reconsider the decision to introduce parking charges in free towns and hike up prices in others, writes Belinda Ryan.

The highways and transport committee last month voted in favour of changes to the parking policy, which includes introducing charges in the existing ‘free’ towns and villages of Audlem, Alsager, Bollington, Handforth, Holmes Chapel, Middlewich, Poynton, Prestbury and Sandbach.

It will also see the council increasing tariffs at most car parks where charging already exists.

Audlem councillor Rachel Bailey (Con) had “called-in” the committee decision and asked that it be referred to Tuesday’s (February 27) meeting of the full council for further debate.

The call-in, supported by 16 Tories in total, was submitted because of a number of concerns, including one relating to the council factoring in projected income from car park spaces in Disley which, the ward councillor says, it doesn’t own.

Cllr Bailey told the Local Democracy Reporting Service today (Friday): “We were concerned at the number of errors/anomalies within consultation documents which remained uncorrected in both committee reports and verbal presentation, along with the failure to consider all council policies as part of the decision making process.

“The call-in was considered last week and the monitoring officer of Cheshire East issued his written opinion earlier this week. The outcome is the call-in was dismissed.”

The reason for refusing the call-in has not been published publicly.

Cllr Bailey said: “The monitoring officer felt the decision [taken by committee] aligned with the council’s local transport plan and found no evidence to suggest that members of the committee did not take consideration of information, or that comments of the public were not considered.”

She said: “I questioned ‘proposed mitigation’ to address potential displacement of vehicles, particularly the lack of a budget for this work, although potential cost also formed part of strategies.

“I was surprised to learn that, ‘mitigation is unlikely to be in place when the new charging policy goes live in October, and is only likely to occur when there is hard evidence of displacement.”

She said, with regard to this, she had been contacted during the past week by disabled residents without off-road parking who rely on on-street parking and will be severely impacted by the new charging policy.

Meanwhile, council officers are understood to have offered to visit Disley following concerns made by ward councillor Sue Adams (Con) that parking spaces Cheshire East doesn’t own had been included in their report.

Cllr Bailey added: “Officers committed to work with communities as the expansion of car park charges is rolled out, which hopefully provides a good opportunity over the next few months for us to continue to raise awareness of ‘issues’ and hopefully achieve amelioration for our communities.”

At last month’s highways meeting, committee chair Craig Browne (Alderley Edge, Ind) said the ‘free’ car parks cost the council £400,000 a year, adding in those towns where there are parking charges, those rates had increased only once since 2009.

He told the meeting: “The recommendations are very much preferable to the alternatives which might include reducing expenditure across the highways service including road maintenance or disposing of our car parks to private providers.”

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