Let the firms pay

Your front page feature on Friday, November 22 (“‘Free’ parking for East Devon?”) outlines the proposal by business leaders to scrap car parking charges in East Devon by increasing the council tax.

This is no more than an attempt by those concerned to profit at the expense of the elderly and non-car users.

First and foremost, if these business leaders believe that this proposal would be an ‘attractive marketing advantage’ over other areas then let them pay for the facility out of their increased profits and not expect those who can least afford it to foot the bill.

The proposals lack proper consideration in many ways.

Sidmouth, like many East Devon towns, has inadequate car parking facilities and is heavily congested by existing traffic.

How are all the additional vehicles going to access the town facilities and where are they going to park their cars?

The problem will also be increased by the fact that if the parking is free those people who have bus passes will be more inclined to come into town centres by car for ease of carrying their shopping home.

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East Devon District Council planning authority has granted permission for large-scale housing developments in Sidmouth, many on the promise or condition of providing park-and-ride facilities.

Where are these facilities and why are they not being progressed?

Any developer who has been granted planning consent on the basis of providing or funding park-and-ride facilities should have future applications rejected until they have fulfilled their current obligations.

The provision of such facilities near the A3052 on the outskirts of Sidmouth would provide a more satisfactory, and viable, solution to increasing the trade in the town without financially penalising those who can least afford it.

Street parking is free each day until 10am and the spaces are always full – yet the car parks are not fully utilised at this time.

As a compromise, the car parks could be free until 10am and after 4pm, thereby encouraging people to support the town facilities in the otherwise quieter periods.

This would also limit the loss of car parking revenue to the council and make it less expensive for the businesses to fund the shortfall from their increased profits.

Finally, the restricted use of disabled parking spaces to blue badge holders is currently limited to 10am to 6pm, Monday to Saturday.

This should be increased to 9am to 6pm seven days a week, thus allowing those with restricted mobility to have better access to the shops and other facilities during all normal trading hours.

Ian Maxwell Scott