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Will West Devon get pay & display meters?

Tuesday, 19 December 2023 08:21

By local democracy reporter, Alison Stephenson

Tavistock town centre (Image:Alison Stephenson)

Campaign to oppose them continues

A West Devon town centre manager is asking the borough council to back to a campaign to fight plans to install on-street parking meters.

Janna Sanders of Tavistock BID (Business Improvement District) is leading the charge to stop pay and display meters in Tavistock, one of eight towns where they are being proposed.

People have until Sunday 7 January to give their views on a county council plan which are also opposed by Tavistock and Okehampton town councils.

Mrs Sanders claims the meters will “disenfranchise the whole community” and she is calling for the support of West Devon Borough Council.

“I would like West Devon to come out on record and vocally oppose this,” she said. “The town council has been really engaged and 2,635 people have signed a petition against the meters.”

Deputy leader council Mark Renders (Ind, Dartmoor) said the borough council is taking a neutral view until councillors have all the facts and the results of the public consultation.

Under Devon County Council’s proposal, one hour of free parking will be retained in the town centre, with an option to pay for a second hour. All motorists will have to display a ticket though.

Janna says if people need to queue for tickets, even if they are free for the first hour, and deal with complicated parking machines, they will just bypass the town and go to Morrisons.

“I don’t want people to be fooled by the fact that they can still get an hour’s free parking if the meters come in. The county council is trying to blindside us, they can quickly change that to 30 minutes or take away the free period altogether.

“We are in a cost of living crisis where high streets are struggling, this will make it harder for people to come into town. I urge people to act now and have their say.”

Jeff Moody (Ind, Tavistock North), who is both a town and West Devon Borough councillor, said the reasons the county gave for installing meters were managing congestion, improving air quality, providing a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists, and maintaining reasonable access to premises. But he added: “We have none of these problems in Tavistock” and Devon county has not given “any evidence or data to prove it.”

Lead member for economy on West Devon Borough Council Neil Jory (Con, Milton Ford) is concerned that no economic impact assessment has been done by the county council. “The option to park for a second hour is likely to block up the spaces in the town centre,” he says. “It seems very much as if the council is imposing this on our towns without any conversation.”

Sixty people who attended a public meeting in Okehampton last week were all against the proposal, this followed a public consultation where 97 per cent of the 1,826 who took part didn’t support the plans.

Okehampton Town Council said DCC had a “direct lack of regard for the town council, joint working and the public as it had refused to consider comments”.

West Devon councillor for Okehampton North Kevin Ball (Con) said it wasn’t a well thought-out idea.

“The argument that there will be a bigger turnover of cars parking in the town centre and more footfall doesn’t stand up because we already have that anyway.”

“I think the meters will put people off coming here and just cause agro. It’s like someone’s got a job lot of parking meters and thinks they better use them.”

County councillor for Tavistock Councillor Debo Sellis (Con) said she had been against on-street parking meters initially and had been “banging her fist” at county hall.

“It’s all been presented in a very clumsy way,” she said but added that the county council had extended the amount of free parking time from 30 minutes to an hour.

“We still get enforcement but this is much sweeter,” she said.

The county council says enforcement will be easier with parking meters and money from the income across Devon was used to support bus services.

“Pay and display has been in place in many communities in Devon for some years and we believe it is one of the components that is needed to ensure a healthy high street and community,” said Cllr Stuart Hughes, DCC’s cabinet member for highways management.

Other towns earmarked for parking meters are Dartmouth, Honiton, Salcombe, Sidmouth and Crediton and Braunton.

Dartmouth Town Council has voiced strong position after a survey showed 87 per cent of residents who took part were against the proposal.

And Crediton town councillor Jim Cairney said earlier this year that the move would “kill the town” .

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