Wednesday, 26 November 2014 10:55

No to free parking say Council and MP

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Theresa Villiers MP, Gordon Massey (Chair of BRA) and Councillor David Longstaff all oppose the petition Theresa Villiers MP, Gordon Massey (Chair of BRA) and Councillor David Longstaff all oppose the petition
Councillor David Longstaff has joined Mrs Theresa Villiers MP and Gordon Massey, chairman of Barnet Residents Association, in opposing the Barnet Society’s petition calling for an hour’s free parking to help win back shoppers to the High Street.

But Councillor Longstaff, chairman of High Barnet Town Team, says he is prepared to take forward our concerns about the damage we believe is being inflicted by Barnet Council’s parking charges, if the Society can present a robust and more detailed case.

The Society is anxious to encourage the widest possible debate about how to assist Barnet traders to make up for lost custom and win back shoppers and local residents who have deserted the town and who prefer to use nearby shopping centres where there is free parking.

Councillor Longstaff insists, as do Mrs Villiers and Mr Massey, that the requirement to pay for parking by phone and credit card has actually increased the use of both the council’s three car parks and the 60-plus spaces along the entire length of the High Street.

His criticism of the Society of what he considered was an inflammatory and inaccurate campaign is coupled with a warning that the loss of income from the hour’s free parking suggested by the Society might require an increase in council tax.

To help ensure an informed discussion, we publish below the responses we have received to date from Councillor Longstaff, Mrs Villiers, Mr Massey and Councillor Dean Cohen, the Barnet Council cabinet member responsible for parking.      

Our initial response to Councillor Longstaff’s questions could not be simpler: we believe he is entirely missing the point.

We do not doubt that some shoppers and visitors are prepared to pay for parking by phone and credit card, but we believe the system is off putting, expensive and inordinately complicated.

We believe that Barnet would be far more attractive to shoppers if the existing but very limited free parking concessions were extended to allow an hour’s free parking in all three of the council’s car parks and in the High Street parking spaces (of which there are 63 between High Barnet tube station and Hadley Green).

Councillor Longstaff asks how the free hour would work.  Again the answer could not be simpler.

It would operate in precisely the same way as happens in the Moxon Street car park, where the meter issues a ticket for an hour’s free parking.

The same arrangement could apply at the meter in the council’s Stapylton Road car park and at the meters along the High Street.

Where there is no meter and instead a requirement to register by phone (as is the case in the Fitzjohn Avenue car park), there would be a notice informing motorists they need not register for their first free hour.

Precisely this arrangement applies along the main road by Hadley Green, where there are up to two hours’ free parking and where a notice states that there is no need to register for those two hours.

If these two concessions are working effectively why can’t they be extended?

Therefore the return question to Councillor Longstaff is straightforward: if Barnet Council’s parking enforcement officers can monitor the free parking allowed in the Moxon Street car park and along Hadley Green, why cannot they handle the same concession in the town centre?

Another of Councillor Longstaff’s concerns regards the potential loss of income. He asks if the Society is prepared to countenance an increase in council tax to make up the potential reduction in parking revenue.

This question gets to the nub of the argument, and is an issue on which Barnet residents will undoubtedly have their own opinions.

Are the council’s parking spaces being as used as effectively as Councillor Longstaff contends?

He surveyed the Fitzjohn Avenue car park at 4 p.m. on a Friday and then walked along the central section of the High Street, where he found “hardly any parking spaces available”.

Two points immediately arise: what about usage on far more difficult trading days such as Monday and Tuesday when there are many more spaces available, precisely the days when Barnet should be trying to welcome back shoppers.

The same goes for the Hadley Green and Barnet Police Station ends of the High Street where there are frequently spaces available. 

Councillor Longstaff asks the Society to provide more information; we would like to counter that by asking the council to provide some detailed statistics on daily parking income in the 300 town centre spaces it says it controls.

So far the only response from Councillor Cohen, who has responsibility for parking, is highly revealing.

He seems to be most concerned about the “High Street’s 16 or so spaces which are charged for” and wants to know where motorists displaced by an hour’s free parking might go.

Is the implication of Councillor Cohen’s response that only these “16 or so spaces” are being used efficiently and producing an income for the council? 

As we have pointed out, there are a total of 63 High Street spaces between the tube station and Hadley Green and our proposal is that they could all provide an hour’s free parking, a concession that would attract far more shoppers and provide the kind of welcome that the traders would like Barnet to offer.

The Society has invited Councillor Cohen to visit Barnet, meet our committee members and get better acquainted with the difficulties that we believe the current parking regime is inflicting on the town.

Mrs Villiers says she is prepared to meet the Society and is ready to discuss the impact of the council’s parking regime

Please read the responses as attachments below

Join the debate and help us win the argument

 

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