Published: January 28, 2008
Burnham Chamber of Trade attacks plans for winter parking charges

Burnham-On-Sea Chamber of Trade has this week hit out at plans to introduce winter parking charges along the town's seafront.

Sedgemoor District Council's plans for all-year-round parking charges - which were exclusively reported by Burnham-On-Sea.com earlier in January - have been criticised by Alex Turco, the Chairman of the trade group.

In a statement issued on Monday (January 28th), he said: "In January 2004 it was first proposed that the Charging Season for the Esplanade should be extended to all year round. After deliberation, Sedgemoor District Council's Executive meeting of 15th September 2004 decided to extend the season to eight months. After complaints, a Road Traffic Order Objection Panel was convened for 22nd March 2005 where the extension to eight months was overturned and so the six month charging season was maintained."

"The Chamber notes that at its Executive Meeting on 16th January 2008, Sedgemoor District Council once again decided to extend the charging season, this time to twelve months. Whilst the Chamber understands SDC's poor financial situation, we do not see that the arguments accepted by the Road Traffic Order Objection Panel in 2005 have changed."

"It was noted and continues to be so that neither on 30th September nor on 1st April each year is there any demand for parking on the Esplanade. This demonstrates that in the winter months tourists are not being dissuaded from visiting because Esplanade parking is full. Therefore, charging outside of the existing six month season is an over-efficient means of regulating use of the Esplanade parking in the off peak season. It does not increase turnover of parking and hence the number of visitors to the Town Centre, which is a normal reason for imposition of parking charges."

Mr Turco added: "There is, however, demand for parking since when there is no charge from 1st October until 31st March each year as supply is usually exhausted. This shows that demand for parking is highly price sensitive. Therefore, it does not follow that this decision will lead to increased revenue for SDC."

"Price sensitive demand means that there is no evidence either that SDC's other car parks will see increased demand and hence increased revenue. Further, this presents the risk that residential roads around the Town Centre will see an increased usage for shoppers' parking. Those residents in roads such as St. Andrews, Kingsway, Dunstan, Lynton, Eton, Jaycroft and others should not been inconvenienced through Esplanade winter displacement."

"Burnham-On-Sea Town Centre needs to be able to compete with the large supermarkets locally, which routinely offer free parking. This is particularly the case in the winter months when the Town Centre is routinely affected by inclement weather. The retail sector is experiencing a downturn presently owing to the reduction in credit following the recent financial crisis and so can ill afford to be put at a competitive disadvantage at this time through extended and increased parking charges. Further, just the perception that it is difficult or costly to park in the Town Centre acts as a disincentive to shoppers."

"A more consistent approach to securing an economic benefit from the much talked about and much awaited regeneration proposals would be to revise parking charges once there has been some substantial improvement in the built environment of the Town Centre. This would compliment the transport proposals to improve traffic flow and signage and to clarify loading and disabled parking," said Mr Turco.

"Given the reduction in headcount at SDC as a consequence of the financial position, will there be sufficient staff to enforce the extension of the charging season? Again, it would be a more consistent approach to wait until the decriminalisation of parking proposals have been enacted. This would enable all of the Town Centre's parking can be properly enforced by the relevant local authority, which should help to secure the increased turnover of parking that is needed within the Town Centre."

"Lastly, it is acknowledged that some of the off peak demand on the Esplanade is taken up by staff and business owners parking there. If SDC is serious about increasing its revenue and use of its existing car parks then firstly more promotion should be given to the low cost car parking permits offered for regular users."

Mr Turco concluded: "In short, there is no evidence to suggest that the revenue requirements of SDC will be met by this proposal. Further, there is no evidence to suggest that this will lead to an improved economy through increasing the number of shoppers. A clear, holistic transport plan for the town is needed and until such time as the regeneration plans are finalised and implemented and decriminalisation of parking introduced, the proposed changes to the Esplanade charging season should be deferred."

RELATED LINKS:

Chamber of Trade official website
Plans unveiled for Esplanade winter car parking charges





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