Shropshire Star

Shropshire Council warned charges for road closures will be 'nail in the coffin' for events

Shropshire Council's plans to start charging for road closures will be the “nail in the coffin” for some of the county’s popular events, opposition councillors have claimed.

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Shropshire Council has agreed to start a consultation on the issue.

The council wants to introduce fees for commercial events requesting temporary traffic regulation orders (TTROs), in order to recoup some of the staffing costs incurred in processing them.

The council believes it could make £25,000 a year from the charges.

At a meeting on Wednesday, the authority’s cabinet agreed to put the proposals out for public consultation.

Councillor Richard Marshall, portfolio holder for highways, said: “As part of the Shropshire Plan, we encourage a healthy economy and we are very much supportive of events that bring money into the local economy.

“However some of these events do involve TTROs for road closures and completing those does take a considerable amount of officers’ time, depending on the complexity and the length of time of the closure.

“I am going to stress it’s not about us making a profit, it’s about us recovering costs of officers’ time implementing those orders.”

The council has previously offered this service for free but now says it is “reasonable and appropriate” to introduce charges – which many other councils already have.

The move comes after initial proposals were withdrawn earlier this year over concerns at the inclusion of potential charges for Remembrance Sunday events.

Speaking at the meeting, Councillor Marshall confirmed this would not be the case.

He said: “This consultation is only suggesting we apply charges to profit-generating organisations.

“If we have town and parish council events or any sort of parade, there will be no charges for them.”

Under the new scheme commercial organisations would be charged £145 for events with fewer than 500 people, £740 for those with between 500 and 1,000, and £1,480 for those with more than 1,000 people.

Events organised by film companies would attract a fee of £740.

The council will however have discretion to “levy an appropriate charge that more accurately reflects the anticipated level of disruption and officers’ time spent”.

Councillor Roger Evans, leader of the Liberal Democrat group, said this was confusing and would leave organisers uncertain of what they would actually end up paying.

Councillor Marshall said it was necessary to offer some leeway as some TTROs were more complex than others.

There was also criticism from Labour group leader Julia Buckley, who said: “I understand why you might want to recoup some costs but I don’t understand why that leads you to generate £25,000 income to fill out what is presumably a hole in your budget.

“I am worried that you are doing that at the cost of our thriving local economy.”

Councillor Buckley said the plans were in conflict with council policies including the overarching Shropshire Plan and tourism strategy, which aim to encourage more events to boost visitor numbers.

She said: “It doesn’t feel like you are working with businesses, it feels like you are putting a deterrent in place that will ultimately lead to a reduction in events in our county.

“I phoned some organisers this morning to ask them how they feel about your proposals. One very large events company described this as the nail in the coffin.”

Councillor Marshall said he had spoken to a number of event organisers who had told him of the charges they have to pay for things like barriers and crowd control measures, adding this would just be another element to factor in when planning an event.

He also highlighted the fact that many other councils already charge much higher amounts for processing TTROs.

Following the consultation, the final proposals will come back before cabinet for final approval.