‘We are going to do untold harm to our high streets’ - scrapping of ten free Bristol car parks met with anger

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Scores of residents have labelled the decision to introduce pay and display as “discriminatory”

New charges planned for ten free Bristol car parks, including two next to doctors’ surgeries, have been branded a “tax on people for being ill” which will “kill” high streets.

The comments follow the city council’s cabinet approving the fees last month despite an outcry from scores of residents who labelled the decision to introduce pay and display as “discriminatory”.

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Stoke Bishop ward Tory Cllr John Goulandris said medical patients needed to park at Waverley Road in Shirehampton, where fees are being introduced.

He said: “We will be hitting people who are sick. The shopping centre in Westbury is under a huge amount of pressure.

“These parking charges could have a devastating impact on the shops and could kill our suburban shopping centres which are suffering already.”

He said the amount that the council expected to earn was a “drop in the ocean” totalling just £150,000 a year, compared with the overall £483.5million proposed revenue budget which contains a raft of other price hikes, cuts and cost-saving measures.

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Southmead ward Labour Cllr Brenda Massey told the meeting: “I suggest we pause and review the proposals where there is strong public opposition.

“It’s really important that we listen to and work with the community for the benefit of everyone because one size does not always fit all and it doesn’t always work.

“I am not trying to endorse increased use of cars, it’s more about keeping high streets alive and not impacting negatively on people seeking healthcare treatment who don’t have access to public transport, so please stop and think.”

Shoppers, GP patients and churchgoers who use Westbury Hill car park in Westbury-on-Trym turned out in force at the meeting to vent their dismay at the £1-an-hour, seven-days-a-week charges coming this autumn.

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Now cross-party councillors have backed their calls for the idea to be scrapped or scaled back, such as keeping the first hour free, while the Labour cabinet member in charge of transport defended the proposals and said details could be worked through later with the community.

Conservative group leader and Henbury & Brentry ward Cllr Mark Weston told a Bristol City Council budget scrutiny meeting: “I don’t understand the intellectual gymnastics the council goes through.

“We can afford to throw tens of millions of pounds at the Colston Hall [now Bristol Beacon] because we recognise the value it provides to the city but we are going to start charging a tiny amount in small car parks because we don’t recognise the importance they have to secondary high streets.

“The small car parks are vital for those areas. We are going to do untold harm to our high streets for very little revenue.”

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He said drivers would avoid paying to park by clogging up neighbourhood streets.

“This is a disastrous move, it’s not going to work and it’s just going to harm communities. It’s a really bad idea,” he said.

Resources scrutiny commission chairman and Westbury-on-Trym & Henleaze ward Conservative Cllr Geoff Gollop said bank customers from across north Bristol visited Westbury because it was the last remaining place with branches.

Westbury Hill free car park is one of the sites under threatWestbury Hill free car park is one of the sites under threat
Westbury Hill free car park is one of the sites under threat | LDR

He said “The ward has the oldest age profile in the city, residents going to the doctor’s surgery are not usually as well as they would like to be, they have no place to park – we are effectively taxing them for being ill.”

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Labour cabinet member for transport Cllr Don Alexander said: “We have for a long time subsidised people who use their cars by offering free car parks which cost money to run.

“We would prefer to use that money to support bus services and active travel.

“Yes there is a GP surgery next to the car park in Shirehampton and in Westbury but the cabinet paper stated this will improve the management of those car parks and ensure there is better turnover.

“Not everyone who goes to a GP is actually ill. A lot of people go to get a prescription or for a test.

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“The NHS has charged people for many years to go to and work in hospitals, so we are more generous than the NHS.

“We will retain blue badge parking spaces for free in every car park, including these.

“Underlying this is the fact we have to raise money and if we don’t raise money from this, we will have to find it from somewhere else to keep these car parks maintained.”

The traffic regulation order required for the new charges includes consultation, which he said was the time to discuss the detail.

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The other eight car parks are Beechwood Road in Frome Vale, Callington Road in Brislington, Chalks Road in St George, Derby Street in St George, Ducie Road in Lawrence Hill, Machin Road in Henbury, Repton Road in Brislington and Stoke View Road in Eastville.

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