|Members considered a report, and presentation by officers, relating to unresolved representations received, following the statutory advertising of a proposal to introduce on street pay and display parking charges on Yarm High Street.|
Members were informed of historical background surrounding the parking in Yarm.
It was explained that the majority of on street parking on Yarm High Street was currently controlled via a disc parking scheme which allowed parking for up to two hours between 8am and 6pm, Monday to Saturday, with no return in one hour. The remaining spaces at either end of the High Street were currently uncontrolled.
In January 2013, Cabinet had authorised the statutory process for the implementation of the agreed changes to parking arrangements in Yarm to be progressed. A review of the impacts of the scheme was agreed to be conducted 12 months following implementation.
Officers indicated that the proposal was to replace the Disc and uncontrolled areas of Yarm High Street with, what they considered, to be a more flexible, easier to understand and enforce Pay and Display' system.
The proposed charge was; first 30 minutes free (comprising 20 minutes free + 10 minutes observation/grace period), £1 for 2 hours then £1 for every hour thereafter applicable Monday to Saturday between 9am and 5pm inclusive, these charges would not apply to Blue Badge holders, residents' permit holders and visitors displaying a valid voucher.
1553 representations were received during statutory advertising of which 91% (1411) were identical copies of a round robin style letter. 13 of the representations were from significant interested parties, 73 were original letters or e-mails, 49 were a combination of a round robin letter with a bespoke/original element incorporated and 7 representations related more to waiting restrictions/off-street proposals/displacement issues.
The report presented the response of the Head of Technical Services to the representations.
The Committee queried why it was considered that pay and display was more understandable than disc zone parking, and had any comparison been carried out. It was explained that in a period of a year, when fully enforced, the Yarm Disc Zone had resulted in 3000 penalty charge notices (PCNs) being issued compared with Stockton Town Centre, which was exclusively Pay and Display, where 1000 PCNs had been issued. Members were referred to appendix 2 of the report which provided details of some of the reasons given when PCNs, issued in Yarm, had been challenged. Officers considered that these indicated that a significant number of users were confused by the disc zone.
The Committee sought clarity around the number of residents who would receive permits.
Mr Richard Merritt addressed the meeting and indicated that he was representing Yarm Chamber of Trade, his wife and himself. Mr Merritt provided Committee members with a written note relating to his address.
During his presentation Mr Merritt made the following points:-
- he referred to the many strengths of the Yarm Town Centre but had noted that inadequate parking had been a weakness for many years.
- he considered that, if Pay and Display, could address this weakness then it should be welcomed and he believed that Yarm would continue to flourish.
- he felt that it was important that the parking problem had to be addressed in a comprehensive manner. He raised concerns about displaced long stay parkers and indicated that if alternative long stay parking was to be secured in the near future then on street charges should be delayed until it was in place.
- Mr Merritt described his concerns relating to Residents' Permits and the potential for 200 vehicles, plus visitors parking in the High Street. This could make the situation worse and again highlighted the need to have long stay car parking in place.
Mr Merritt was asked how many Yarm businesses the Chamber of Trade represented and he indicated that it was difficult to be precise and membership was amorphous. The Chairman indicated to the Committee that he had viewed the Chamber of Trade's original representations relating to the proposals and he estimated that it had been signed by about 20 individuals.
Mr Jonathan Walker addressed the meeting and explained that he was speaking on behalf of Yarm Residents' Association, all businesses and 400 employees. A number of people attending the meeting were from the bodies Mr Walker had indicated he was representing and the Chairman asked those present if they were happy for Mr Walker to speak on their behalf. On receiving no dissenting voices to this the Chairman indicated that he would allow Mr Walker an extended time to address the meeting. Mr Walker had provided members with a written response to the officer's report to Committee.
During his presentation Mr Walker made the following points/comments:-
- 80 to 100 properties were in the Town Centre, most of which would be of multiple occupation, The residents of the properties would receive one or two permits to park anywhere in the High Street. It was suggested that these residents would take up most of the available parking.
- he called on the Committee to reject the proposals and demonstrate to the residents, businesses and employees that they had been listened to.
- many of the businesses on the High Street were small and unique and survived on very small margins. The proposals could mean the closure of these businesses, or relocation. He cited a number of Town Centres where this had happened including Morpeth and Thirsk.
- the introduction of Pay and Display had never increased the economic output of a Town where it had been introduced. Figures indicated significant downturns in economic activity following the introduction.
- he queried where the 80 - 100 spaces were going to come from, as there were no areas available in Yarm.
- Mr Walker asked the Committee to consider why 120 businesses in Yarm were against the proposals? Why was there such opposition and why were people so vehemently against the proposals? He suggested that the most appropriate people to determine what would not work in the Town Centre were the individuals who operated the businesses.
- he described the claim, in the officers report, that the proposal would create up to a 15% increase in trade for the Town as laughable and pointed out that if businesses thought this was achievable they would welcome the proposals, in such a difficult economic climate.
- Mr Walker suggested that the Council's real motive for the proposals was the £850,000 annual income they would generate.
- the proposals would make small wynds and roads competitive arenas, for parking, and they would become festooned with cars. People would go out of their way to find free parking.
- local people would only shop for the 30 minutes free and would only visit shops they had planned to in that time. They would not visit other shops or cafes/restaurants.
- it was wrong to change the current system to satisfy the small number of people who wished to park for more than two hours.
- Council officers had indicated that the disc zone was not understood, however, there had been a 61% decrease in contraventions since 2009. This could be extended to 70% if the contraventions, arising from the library being closed, when visitors were unable to buy discs, were removed from the figures. Residents and visitors were attuned to how the disc zone operated and felt it worked well.
- agreed that some changes were needed, but pay and display should not be implemented in isolation.
- Commuter parking and Yarm School students parking equated to around 300 spaces every day. The proposals would mean that these vehicles would be displaced. Butts Lane and other areas of Eaglescliffe would become a car park and a 'park and stride' for Yarm.
- telephone survey questions to visitors were not adequate/specific and should have asked a more relevant question 'what impact would pay and display have on your decision whether to come to Yarm?'
- Mr Walker restated his point about residents parking and suggested that these would take up 66% of all spaces.
- Payment of £1 in the evening would allow someone to leave their car overnight and take up the most valuable spending hours the following morning between 10am and 12 noon.
- the Portas report had recommended that High Streets have free parking.
- surrounding towns were being irrevocably damaged due to the introduction of pay and display.
- Middlesbrough had introduced first two hours free and reported that for the 19 weeks to the end of June 2013 it had had 159,000 users of its car parks, as against 78,000 for the same period last year.
- Parking in Stockton became very stressful and confusing for car park users if the machines broke. There were no signs to advise people. However, there was no such confusion in Yarm as the disc zone was straightforward and didn't rely on machines.
- the £850,000 income the Council would make was the reason for the proposals and this fact could not be cloaked behind congestion and flexibility.
- Redcar and Cleveland Borough Council had listened to the views of people on parking arrangements in part of its Borough and had announced that, given the strength of views and feelings, it had decided not to pursue those arrangements. Stockton should do the same.
- Mr Walker explained that he understood the rationale but questioned whether it was in the interests of Yarm. He called on the Committee members to reject the proposals.
The Committee asked how many firms were operating on the small margins, referred to in Mr Walker's presentation, and was there any evidence that some may relocate. A Mr Johnson, from ITrade provided an example of a trader who had indicated he would move his staff to Barnard Castle due to the cost to his business that the introduction of Pay and display would bring.
Mr Walker added that employees, on low wages, would move to work at other locations, such as Preston Farm or Teesside Park, as the charges would take a large part of their wage.
The Committee asked for clarification relating to the £850,000 income to the Council that had been quoted by Mr Walker. Mr Walker explained that this was a simple calculation based on the number of spaces and days of operation in a year.
Officers explained that the Council could not set out to make a surplus but if one occurred it was ring-fenced and could only be used on maintenance of car parks and public transport. Officers also indicated that they believed the £850,000 was an exaggeration and that since 2006 the Council had not increased charges in Stockton but had instead introduced efficiency savings to reduce operating costs.
The Committee was addressed by Michael Kitching of SK Transport Planning Ltd on behalf of Egglescliffe Area Residents' Association.
Mr Kitching raised the following points/comments during his address:-
- officers had not replied to a technical letter sent by SK Transport.
- the proposals placed reliance on 2002 and 2006 parking data.
- pay and display was being removed from many parts of the country,
- there had been a failure to identify the impact on short, medium and long stay parking.
- failure to properly consider displacement.
- failure to properly consider financial aspects of the proposals.
- the data in the NEMS report was not sufficient to support the scheme.
- the Council should carry out a thorough study, with external advice, prior to implementing a Pay and Display scheme.
- The Council had not met Government guidance on consultation and the proposals should not be introduced until a transparent appraisal had been carried out.
The Committee asked Mr Kitching if he had any sympathy with the officer report.
Mr Kitching indicated that he understood that the Council was trying to create an environment for short, medium and long stay parking but there was a finite supply and the proposals were trying to satisfy everyone but would cause more friction.
Mr John Allan, representing the Federation of Small Businesses (FSB), addressed the meeting,
Mr Allan explained that he did not believe the meeting was lawfully constituted but as the request to defer the meeting had been refused he wished to make comments. He then made the following points /comments:-
- through Freedom of information requests the Federation had established that local authorities had raised £884million on PCNs during 2011 and this was likely to increase by £159 million in the coming year.
- FSB was the largest representative of businesses in England and 22% of its members were in the retail sector.
- there was no evidence that the introduction of parking charges increased trade, in fact it had decreased footfall in other areas by 25%.
- he recommended that officers speak with Rochdale and Altringham where charges of 10p per hour had been implemented to assist trade.
- Yarm was a Beacon of what a High Street should be and small businesses were the heart of the community and Yarm's uniqueness should be celebrated.
- if shops closed as a result of the proposals the trend would be difficult to reverse.
- listen to the trade and residents.
- unemployment in North East was highest in the Country; the proposals would send companies into liquidation and cause further unemployment.
Mr Allan was asked what he had been referring to when he had indicated that he believed the Committee had not been properly constituted. He indicated that he believed that the businesses of Yarm should have been given more time to arrange to attend and the meeting should have been held on an evening and in a more convenient location.
Officers explained that a full day had been allocated to hear the representations. Sufficient notice had been given of the date of the meeting and Mr Walker had been instructed to represent every business on the High Street and had been allowed an extended period of time to speak in order to present many of the views submitted during the consultation period.
Mr Monck, representing Yarm Town Council, addressed the Committee.
Mr Monck raised the following points:-
- there was a shortage of parking in Yarm and there would be an increase in traffic due to the amount of new planning permissions granted.
- Yarm Town Council was willing to work with the Council to address long stay car parking issues.
- the Town Council remained opposed to pay and display.
- the proposals, with no maximum limit, would turn Yarm into a long stay car park. If the proposals were introduced there should be 4 hour maximum stay limit.
- the Town Council fully supported proposed restrictions in Bentley Wynd and West Street but people who parked there would be displaced and where would they go?
- proposals would have a detrimental effect on the High Street.
- the disc zone worked well in Yarm and Northallerton.
- long stay should be the only pay and display.
In response to a question from the Committee Mr Monck confirmed that his suggestion of a 4 hour maximum stay related to the High Street.
Cllr Chatburn addressed the Committee and made the following points:-
- the risk to trade on the High Street had not been properly quantified.
- there were 103 residents who may take up to 206 permits, plus residents could buy visitors books. Small margins would be affected. These issues had not been quantified or considered sufficiently. More consideration was needed and risks mitigated.
- if the proposals were introduced there should be a 3 hour maximum stay limit.
Cllr Rigg addressed the Committee and made the following points:-
- she had chaired the Council's Environment Select Committee which had been very clear that the issue of long stay in Yarm needed to be addressed. It had been indicated two years ago that the acquisition of land for long stay was very close and the same had been said today.
- where would displaced vehicles park? There had been no thought to mitigating the effects on streets in Eaglescliffe and Egglescliffe. Visitors coming from the north would park before the bridge and walk into Yarm.
- problems would be caused for weddings and funerals at the church.
- the TROs were premature and long stay provision must be dealt with first.
Gareth Davis spoke on behalf of Sainsbury's Supermarket and made the following points:-
- objected to the 20 minute free parking.
- repeated written request for 1 hour free parking in line with Sainsbury's current practice, otherwise this would not work locally.
- any charge for parking would deter shoppers; they would find alternative parking, or shop elsewhere.
- there would be additional demand on Sainsbury's car park.
- concerned that residents' parking would replace commuter parking.
The Committee asked if Mr Davis had any data on the use of Sainsbury's car park. How many used the car park for more than 2 hours?
The Committee noted that Sainsbury's took a light touch to enforcement. Sainsbury's concern was that vehicles would be displaced from the High Street to its car park. The store would need to consider its parking regime if the proposals were introduced.
The Committee was addressed by a number of residents, traders and other interested parties.
The following issues/comments were raised;-
- the pay and display machines that would be placed on Yarm High Street pavement would have a significant visual impact on the conservation area and would not fit the character of the Town.
- wheelchair users and people with pushchairs and young children would have further obstacles to negotiate.
- Butts Lane, Egglescliffe would be affected by the displaced vehicles
- Yarm was in competition with Northallerton and visitors would go to Northallerton if the Pay and Display was introduced.
- if the charges were introduced shops would close, as businesses were fragile, operating on low margins.
- Egglescliffe Area Residents' Association had not been properly consulted and its consultant's report had been ignored.
- Yarm had a wide range of shops and attracted people from all social backgrounds and ages.
- It would be a shame if low income families were deterred from going to the town because of the parking charges.
- traders and residents knew why the town was successful, please listen to them.
- the Council had a duty of care to Yarm; please vote that the traffic order be stopped.
- Stockton High Street was in grave trouble and this was why it was receiving Portas funding, whereas Yarm was a Beacon. Yarm would resemble Stockton if Pay and Display was introduced.
-the current parking arrangements were not broken and didn't need fixing
- introduce long stay pay and display but not at the expense of free 2 hours
- the proposals would result in gridlock
- need answers to section 106 funding. Why was the Council depending on 106 funding to deliver long stay car parking?
- Yarm School should be asked to provide parking for its students on its site
- worshippers may have to pay before going to Church on a Sunday
- don't make a hasty decision, secure long stay provision and monitor the impact
- lots of people oppose the proposals, they would have a negative impact on Yarm
- extremely angry - people were making decisions about Yarm who didn't live and work there.
- people working in Yarm would lose their jobs if the proposals were introduced
- employees would be discouraged from working in Yarm
- tenancies may move to Preston Farm and blight would occur - shops along the High Street would close.
- there had been no investment, in car parking, in Yarm High Street since 1860.
- long stay had to come first.
- the proposals could lead to a proliferation of cyclists but no provision had been made for this.
- there were signs that shopkeepers were getting concerned about the proposals and would pull out of the High Street.
- a survey of customers carried out by one of the shop owners indicated that 84% of her customers would visit less often
- most towns had pay and display and one in seven businesses were empty.
- £850,000 income for the Council had been calculated using data from the NEMS report.
Officers responded to issues/comments raised and listed what they considered to be the key points raised by speakers:-
- Long Stay Car Park
- Residents' Permits
- The disc zone worked
Long Stay - It was explained that, two years ago, Yarm Town Council had approached the landowners the Council was in discussions with, at that time. Subsequently those sites did not come forward. The Committee was assured that Stockton on Tees Borough Council was currently at an advanced stage of discussions with landowners to provide 80 - 100 new spaces. The Council would take opportunities to acquire other suitable sites too.
Displacement - it was accepted that this would happen though it was difficult to be entirely certain where it might occur. There were means available to address or manage displacement. This matter would be monitored.
Residents' Permits - 103 cars would require permits to park on the High Street. Officers provided a slide to the Committee that indicated that 60% of residents would leave during the proposed operating time of the Order.
The disc zone worked - The number of PCNs had dropped due to the light touch approach adopted by the Council but when the zone was enforced fully, 3000 PCNs were issued a year. Visitors went to another town or abandoned their journey, if they were unable to get parked in the High Street.
Officers presented a slide that indicated that, apart from the distance to travel, difficulty in car parking was the biggest single barrier putting people off visiting Yarm.
The methodology of the NEMS market research was explained and sample sizes given.
Officers considered that research demonstrated that the disc zone did not work.
Income - Members noted a slide relating to how long people stayed in Yarm. 32% of visits were for less than 30 minutes, and 32% of visits were more than 30 minutes but less than 1 hour. Approximately 30 - 40 cars would be parked by residents with permits. Officers considered that income would not be £850,000 as suggested by some speakers, but in the region of £245,000. Officers restated that Pay and Display was not designed to generate income but to resolve problems. Income would be used to maintain the car parks and tariff rates could be reviewed and changed.
Officers picked up further points raised by speakers and explained that though Middlesbrough Borough Council had noted a significant rise in the number of visitors to its car parks, traffic volumes into the Town were unaltered. It was thought that because of the first 2 hours free parking in some Council car parks there had been a migration of vehicles from private, charging car parks to the Council car parks.
Comparisons between Yarm and Northallerton had been made. Officers explained that surveys indicated that 28% of those who preferred Northallerton did so because it was easier to park.
There was no requirement for the Council to undertake a business case for this Traffic Regulation Order. Business cases were required for decriminalisation of on-street parking enforcement and this had been undertaken in 2005. There had been comprehensive surveys in 2006, supplemented by some spot checks in 2009 and 2012, as well as the NEMS residents' survey in 2012. Studies would be carried out before and after the proposals were introduced for evaluation and monitoring purposes.
There were no charges on a Sunday so church services on this day would not be affected by the proposals. There were opportunities for ad hoc arrangements to be made for church events on other days.
Officers explained that they had met with Sainsbury's management prior to the proposals and would continue to work with them to find solutions to any problems.
The dimensions of the parking meters were 1.8 metres high, 0.3 metres deep and 0.4 metres wide. The number of signage poles would be reduced as signs would be placed on lampposts in the new scheme
Section 106 funds were to mitigate the impact of new developments. There were a number of S106 agreements but no long stay solution on the ground. The funding would help if any Compulsory Purchase Orders were needed.
The Committee noted that five S106 agreements had been concluded and one was still being negotiated.
At this point the Committee and Officers from Law and Democracy retired to an adjacent room to consider the information and written and verbal representations it had received.
Members were mindful of the number of objections to the proposed order, by those attending but also those who made written representations, the majority of whom shared the same grounds of objection.
Members shared the historical concern regarding the need for a long stay car park to mitigate any effect of displacement of users of the High Street and to provide parking for commuters. Members' initial preference was to request that Long Stay Parking be secured and implemented prior to the introduction of Pay and Display but realised that this might compromise the Council's negotiations with local landowners. Members were, however, of the opinion that a solution was needed to address the parking issues on the High Street, to improve the turnover of spaces and improve the congestion of the High Street and accepted the officer's reasons as to why Pay & Display was the appropriate solution.
Members were committed to minimise any harmful impact that the pay and display scheme may have on businesses in Yarm, anticipated by the objectors. They were mindful of the representations regarding customers requiring a short stay in Yarm High Street and suggestions that such shoppers would not pay to carry out a short period of shopping and would shop elsewhere. Members took into account the fact that 64% of shoppers stayed in the High Street for less than 60 minutes, as identified by the NEMS survey. Members therefore recommended that the period of free parking be extended to one hour.
Members were mindful that 50% of the current parking spaces in Central Yarm were taken up by shop workers, Yarm School students and other commuters who took up the spaces for the full day and therefore restricted the spaces available for visitors and shoppers who would support the traders in Yarm with increased spending and the success of Yarm should be supported. To aid the turnover of spaces the members recommended a maximum stay of 3 hours per day within the Pay & Display Zone.
Members considered that the remaining objections did not outweigh the reasons for making the order.
Members agreed that the impact of the traffic order be reviewed 6 months after the implementation of the order, rather than 12 months.
Members asked that the Head of Technical Services be encouraged to implement the additional long stay car parks as a matter of urgency and where possible in tandem with the implementation of the traffic order for pay & display, but were mindful not to restrict the Head of Technical Service's complete discretion regarding the implementation of either.