Shropshire Star

Shropshire Council insists road closure charges 'reasonable and appropriate'

Shropshire Council says it is "reasonable and appropriate" to start charging for road closures as part of commercial events.

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The authority's cabinet is set for its second stab at implementing the policy after an initial proposal was withdrawn earlier this year over concerns at the inclusion of potential charges for Remembrance Sunday events.

The latest plan has dropped all charges for non-commercial events, with councillors asked to approve a consultation on the fresh proposal.

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.

A report on the plan outlines how the council believes it could make £25,000 a year from the charges.

It states: "The council has always supported events in the county which are popular with residents and visitors. They promote active lifestyles and, in most cases, boost the local economy.

"Some commercial organisers have been achieving healthy profits from events in recent years and it seems both reasonable and appropriate to consider and apply charges for the use of the council’s highways to provide a financially sustainable approach for the council as many other local authorities do.

"This allows us to help fund and maintain a range of key services for Shropshire residents and those who visit the county.

"An appropriate recovery of costs process that takes account of, and considers all types of, event and event organiser would support the vision, values and priorities of the Shropshire Plan.

"An important factor in considering proposed fee scales is to ensure fees are defendable, pass scrutiny, accurately reflect officers time and other incurred costs and are also considered reasonable, on a par with those imposed by neighbouring and similar authorities and, importantly are not an unwarranted deterrent for event organisers wishing to hold an event in Shropshire."

The report assesses potential drawbacks of the plans, saying there is a risk that some event organisers may abandon events if they do not have the money for the applications.

It states: "There is a risk that imposing a charge may impact on event organisers with limited or currently non-existent budgets – leading to proposed event applications being withdrawn, or increased request for fee waivers."

The report also outlines how the council has not previously charged because it has been focussed on helping smaller events and supporting others which might raise Shropshire's profile and attract visitors.

It states: "Historically, whilst Shropshire Council have the ability and facilities to charge event organisers for the assessment, advice, and processing of the legal order if deemed necessary, the process has been largely accommodated as part of a wider ethos to assist event organisers on limited budgets and to promote events as beneficial to community engagement, increasing footfall, trade & tourism whilst raising towns and county profile.

"There is now an initiative to review this procedure, ensure recovery of reasonable costs, and introduce a reasoned/defendable charge where appropriate to do so."