Mass meeting in Bowness as clock ticks down on parking charges decision (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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Mass meeting in Bowness as clock ticks down on parking charges decision
CAMPAIGNERS have gathered on The Glebe in Bowness in a show of strength against on-street parking charges before a crunch decision is made next week.
People gathered at the bandstand with umbrellas bearing slogans, and placards reading: 'WABA says no to parking charges, " and "No confidence in CCC".
The event on Saturday July 13 was organised by the recently-formed Windermere and Bowness Action group (WABA).
A Cumbria County Council committee meets in Kendal next Thursday (July 17) to vote on the introduction of the charges, what people will have to pay and where.
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Under the plan, The Glebe, one of the last significant stretches of road in Bowness where parking is free for two hours - it would mean 20 minutes free parking coming in and charges thereafter; expected to be over £1.50 an hour.
On Thursday of next week, the 18-member South Lakeland Local Committee - an offshoot committee of the county council - with a Lib Dem majority, will make the final local decision.
At today's event, Westmorland MP Tim Farron said the battle is '90 per cent won' after the number of streets pencilled-in for charges was vastly scaled back.
But he said the county council, run by a Labour-Lib Dem coalition, would have to 'face up to the fact' that the charges are hugely unpopular with the public.
Mr Farron expects council bosses may now scrap the plan altogether because the small number of streets now left in the scheme would not generate sufficient income to be worthwhile going ahead.
Mr Farron said: "The proposals have been significantly scaled back and that is all down to Jo Stephenson (the Lib Dem group leader on CCC). We are 90 per cent there and the 10 per cent is worth fighting for, because in my view it's the thin end of the wedge.
"If you look at the businesses round the Lake, and there are some very successful ones, there are also some with relatively small margins and the people they employ will be not be on much over the national minimum wage.
"Why put them all at risk and make it harder for people to shop?"
The recently-formed Windermere and Bowness Action group (WABA) are convinced it is not to late to overturn the charges locally.
Representatives gathered signatures for a petition and gave out letters to be sent to Cumbria County Council's Labour leader, Coun Stewart Young.
Susan Wales, of WABA, said the response from members and the public had been 'great'.
Coun David Williams, the Tory leader on SLDC and councillor for Windermere and Bowness South, said: "Today is about making sure that we get the message to CCC and councillors that we do not want metered parking on the Glebe.
"We've only just fought the National Park who wanted to ban all parking, and now they come up with this."
Nigel Wilkinson, MD of Windermere Lake Cruises, said he was concerned with how 'out of touch' the county council had been and at some of the 'arrogance' shown.
He said his request for an economic impact assessment before any charges were introduced, was described in a county council letter as 'not possible or meaningful'.
Mr Wilkinson also said the introduction of parking charges flew directly in the face of government advice on the future of high streets penned by Mary Portas 'Queen of Shops', as it proposed free local parking.
Mr Wilkinson explained: "The parking along the Glebe means you can park for two hours and there's a clear two hour restriction so those parking places will turnover four or five times during the day. It gives visitors a chance to park here, get familiar with the area, stop at a cafe, go for a cruise and a wander around the village."
Jim Bland, the Tory county councillor for the Lyth Valley which covers part of Bowness, quipped: "The Liberals will have to get their act together because we can't have their MP saying one thing and the party doing the opposite."
And Bill Smith, known as the Shop Doctor for his specialism in 'retail revitalisation' believes the charges will certainly hurt the local economy.
Mr Smith explain: "It will have an impact of causing people to spend less time in the town. If they create a 20 minute parking window, they will pop in and pop out and spend less money and not have the opportunity to spend time in the town, browsing, shopping or socialising."
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