Wetherby councillors have reacted angrily to a proposal to introduce car parking charges in Wetherby, vowing to fight the introduction.
A report of initial budget proposals for 2019/20 by the Chief Officer of Financial Services was due to go before the Executive Board, as we went to press yesterday (Wednesday), highlighting the Wilderness car park as one of three in Leeds being capable of generating £200,000 through pay and display.
Wetherby Coun Alan Lamb told the News that he feels this is a prime example of how the administration doesn’t understand the local economy in the district centres, citing the joint projects with local businesses that have enabled free parking in the town centre.
“This is a shameless attempt to get the people of our town to prop up the Council’s budget – it won’t improve anything here in Wetherby and will only succeed in making the town less attractive. Wetherby is not a cash cow, nor a golden goose.
“Working with local businesses, we have secured funding that has improved the town centre parking facilities, crucially keeping them free of charge.
“This proposal goes against all that hard work. The Council should be working with the local town officials and businesses to develop a comprehensive parking strategy.
“I want to be absolutely clear – we were not aware of, nor consulted on this idea.” The Ward Councillors - Couns Lamb, Gerald Wilkinson and Norma Harrington - have vowed to take the matter “to the highest levels” in the council to get it overturned.
Coun Wilkinson added: “To say that we are outraged does not cut it.
“The Wilderness car park is well used and often full. I have no doubt that introducing charges will displace vehicles into the town and we will end up with more occurrences of anti-social parking.
“Parking has been an issue in our town for years and there are no easy answers, but this will create more problems than it solves.”
A vision for the future of parking in the market town was revealed by the Wetherby News in 2015 with three key points - the Wilderness, Crossley Street, James Street and the Council Offices would be restricted to four hours; Hallfield Lane lorry park restricted to four hours but with 25 per cent long stay; Station Gardens would be unrestricted.
The Station Gardens car park has since been refurbished, offering long stay for workers in the town and in September 2015, Hallfield Lane was reopened as the Cluster of Nuts, offering space for 153 vehicles, including short stay parking and retaining permit-only spaces for local residents.
Coun Harrington said of this week’s proposal: “Our objective is to attract more people here. I struggle to see how adding charges for parking will do that. This brings nothing to the town and gives us no benefits whatsoever – we will get nothing as a result.
“We’ve not seen even a penny of the £173.5million transport fund to improve public transport, yet again Wetherby is being asked to pay more but gets nothing in return.
“This could drive people away from the town and any revenue raised by the car park could be dwarfed by lost business rates.”
MP Alec Shelbrooke told the News that he would be seeking a meeting with Leeds City Council’s Executive members to discuss the parking charges proposal.
“Wetherby is crying out for extra parking to support its thriving high street.
“Free parking has proved successful for our market town, bringing shoppers in and, in return, generating business rates,” said Mr Shelbrooke.
“Parking charges will reduce the flow and therefore we will see shops closing and ultimately a reduction in rates.
“The cost of collecting from the pay and display metres will also be burdensome in relation to what is to be collected.
“Additionally, the workers in Wetherby already struggle to find parking spaces each morning and we may see an increase in parking on residential streets.”