Shropshire Star

'We have listened' says councillor as hike in parking charges is approved despite criticism

A leading councillor said "we have listened" as Shropshire Council approved a number of hikes in parking charges across the county.

Last updated
Shropshire Council has approved its planned increases in parking charges.

The proposals have attracted criticism from businesses in Shrewsbury, as well as councillors from Wem – who wanted the town exempt from any charges.

The council has made a number of amendments to its plans – although Shrewsbury's major car parks will all see increases in charges – along with the introduction of Sunday and evening charges.

Recommending the cabinet approve the plans, Councillor Dan Morris, the authority's Conservative portfolio holder for highways, said they had looked to address the issues highlighted by critics of the plans – and that a consultation would now take place.

He said: "We have listened to points and concerns raised by all of the stakeholders in the county and in the cabinet report there were 11, I have counted, points raised which have been looked at."

He added: "We have made changes to evening charges, Sunday charges, reducing increases at Abbey Foregate, also on TROs (traffic regulation orders) and I recommend this report is supported at cabinet.

But opponents of the rises still criticised the plans as "excessive and disproportionate", while another said they were "Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury", ignoring other parts of the county.

Councillor Julia Buckley, leader of Shropshire Council's Labour group said: "There are some revisions in here which are very welcome, So the reducing of evening charges down to a pound is really welcome compared to your original proposal, a one hour charge only on Sunday is also better than your original proposal."

She added: "And the fact you will now put up notices to form a traffic regulation order which will enable a consultation, that is welcome. And I hope you will follow the usual protocol for a TRO consultation.

"For the public who are listening, if more objections than support are received then it does not go ahead, that is the normal protocol for a TRO consultation."

But, the council's Conservative leader, Councillor Lezley Picton warned that the consultation was "not a referendum", adding: "So if you have 100 people say no and two say yes, it is not a referendum."

Councillor Buckley criticised the hikes in parking charges as above inflation, saying: "This morning's inflationary rate is pegged at 3.2 per cent, your proposed increase for St Julian Friars and Abbey Foregate is 33 per cent, more than ten times the current inflation rate, and your proposed increase on Frankwell is 40 per cent, so heading to 15 times the rate of inflation"

She added: "These increases remain excessive and disproportionate."

But, Council cabinet member Gwilym Butler defended the rises, and said that without yearly inflationary hikes, the Labour leader's criticism was not valid.

He said: "She can't just pick a figure, that suits her – the three per cent today – because we have not increased them for many years at our own peril.

"And I hope in the future that to support the council and the residents of Shropshire that we increase them by inflation on an annual basis and don't have to go through all this procedure as normal."

Councillor Roger Evans said that while the council's decision to make some changes had been welcomed by Shrewsbury Business Improvement District – which has opposed the plans – the BID still wanted the council to go further.

He also criticised the cabinet report on the plans for having no mention of the BID.

Councillor Evans said the plans had also taken a narrow focus on Shrewsbury for changes to the original proposals.

He said: "There are a lot of towns outside of Shrewsbury, and there is no reference in this at all, although representations were made at the scrutiny committee about the effect it will have on those towns, it seems the alterations are just to do with Shrewsbury. Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury, Shrewsbury, and everywhere else is ignored and as it was."

The cabinet was also taken to task by Wem Councillor, Ed Towers, who called for the authority to abandon charges in the town to aid its economic recovery.

He said that an audit revealed only a third of Wem residents visited the town centre in 2022.

He added that the number of commercial premises in the town is in decline, from 107 in 2021, to 99 in 2023.

He said: "I ask you conduct an experiment. Suspend the charges, make it band seven then measure the impact."

He added: "I would ask you to have the courage to think differently about the blunt tool of increasing car parking charges in Wem and give the town some breathing space to recover economically before something as simple and draconian for us such as the proposal you are implementing. To do otherwise would undermine all the efforts we are making to help ourselves economically."

Responding Councillor Dan Morris said: "I completely understand the points made. there will be a revamp of parking strategy coming after this report and I am sure the bands will be looked at but at the moment the recommendation is to keep Wem in band six and that is what will happen."

The proposals were voted through unanimously by cabinet members.