Plans to install parking meters outside shops on a busy shopping street in Colchester were dealt a major blow last week—thanks to a local TaxPayers’ Alliance campaign.
The North Essex Parking Partnership (NEPP) had planned to install pay and display parking meters along North Station Road in central Colchester. Currently, the first 30 minutes parking are free, but under the new plans, drivers would have had to pay 10p for 15 minutes, 20p for 30 minutes, and 50p for the hour. Small businesses in Essex are already facing ever-escalating costs and these parking charges could have been the last straw. One shopkeeper told me that a number of his customers had said they would not come back if meters were introduced. The view from the NEPP was simply that ‘these locations could generate an income stream for the NEPP’ and the councils that run it.
However, the message heard from local retailers was that they wanted more free parking, not less. Shopkeepers on North Station Road opposed this proposal by signing and collecting signatures for my TPA petition. In total, we gathered 102 signatures, including most of the owners of the small businesses that would be affected by the charges.
Last Wednesday, I picked up the petition from the shopkeepers and presented it to the council's parking officer at their office complex. As the TPA’s Essex coordinator, I spoke to the council that evening during their ‘Have Your Say’ segment of the meeting. I kept it brief, introducing myself and discussing the issue of the proposed parking meters, pointing out the effect this could have on the local shops and their customers. I asked Martin Hunt, Deputy Leader of Colchester Borough Council, whether, in these times of economic uncertainty and rising costs, imposing these meters on small businesses in Colchester was wise?
He made it clear that he and the other Colchester representatives did not support the proposals. ‘It wasn’t for NEPP to tell us we ought to have meters,’ he said, ‘but for us to request them if we wanted them.’ The introduction of meters would have to be put to the cabinet, the councillors, then enter a period of consultation with local businesses and residents. ‘It won’t be happening on my watch,’ he later told the Colchester Daily Gazette.
Imposing further costs on small retailers in tough economic times is absolutely unacceptable. ‘I don’t think people who make these sort of decisions realise anything that could stop someone using a small business could kill it,’ said a local retailer. ‘I’m glad they’ve put paid to it.’ The shooting down of these plans is therefore a real victory for people power and the TPA, and a triumph of common sense.
This victory has also encouraged councillors and residents to fight other parking meter proposals elsewhere in Essex.