Last week businesses were in uproar at the plans to increase parking charges in Northampton without what many people felt was a proper consultation.
But here in Northampton we don’t like to go down without a fight.
After it emerged the public would not be formally asked to comment on the rises, we thought we would launch a snap consultation of our own and called on you to write in with your views.
And it’s fair to say our postbag has been overflowing this week – with so many of you calling on the borough council to think again. The new charges – set to come into force on April 15 – will see evening charges rise from £1 to £3 across all borough council-owned car parks.
At surface car parks such as Upper Mounts, the 60p for an hour tariff and £1.20 for two hours will be replaced with a new minimum charge of £2.
Anyone staying at surface car parks for between three and four hours will have to pay £4 – as opposed to £2.40 for three hours or £3.20 for four hours. Our readers believe this will greatly put people off coming into the town – particularly the 300 per cent increase to the evening charges.
So many of you wrote in, we couldn’t contain all the comments on the following two pages here – so head to our letters section on pages 44 and 45 for more views.
All of your letters – and more than 100 Facebook comments – have been sent to the borough council for consideration.
Shopkeepers, pub owners and cafe bosses in Northampton are also taking a stand against the increases. Traders who are part of the Business Improvement District (BID) formed a working group with the borough council last week to discuss alternative proposals to the parking rises.
Meetings have been ‘constructive’ so far, a source said. What should be noted, however, is the borough has budgeted to make £625,000 through the increases – money which would need to be found elsewhere if the new tariffs were scrapped completely.
With that in mind, the council is highly unlikely to cancel the tariff rises altogether at this stage. Chairman of the BID Rob Purdie said an alternative set of proposals has been submitted to the council – though he could not yet say what those were.
“We are working towards something we feel is a more acceptable solution,” said Mr Purdie. “There will have to be some increases but it is a matter of where those fall.”
Mr Purdie said his members were particularly concerned about the threefold increase to the evening charge and said there was a general feeling Sundays should be free to park. The BID is calling for the imposition of the new tariffs to be delayed while negotiations are ongoing.
However, questions still remain over the consultation process. The authority’s draft budget in December asked people for their views on generally raising parking income by £625,000 to plug a budget gap – but there was no detail as to how. Only 21 people left comments.
The Liberal Democrat councillors on the authority have been challenging the Conservative-run council since December on what they say is a lack of transparency.
The group says councillors only found out details of the increases at the cabinet meeting on February 20. Minutes of that meeting suggested a further consultation would take place.
But the notices put up in car parks and the meeting with has been, many feel, insufficient. Councillor Sally Beardsworth (Lib Dem, Kingsthorpe) said: “The Liberal Democrats on the council will not let this rest until we are convinced everything has been done properly.”