Protesters confront councillor over on-street parking charges

The Westmorland Gazette: Coun Jo Stephenson speaking to protesters in Windermere Coun Jo Stephenson speaking to protesters in Windermere

THIS is the moment placard-waving protesters confronted a councillor over controversial plans to introduce on-street parking charges to Windermere and Bowness.

Around 100 angry residents vented their anger at Coun Jo Stephenson for 20 minutes as he tried to enter a meeting in the Marchesi Centre on Tuesday.

Members of the Windermere and Bowness Action Group posed questions to Coun Stephenson about the impact the proposals would have on town centre trade.

However Coun Stephenson, who represents Windermere on the county council and is also cabinet member responsible for finance, attempted to appease the protesters saying that he had listened to them and all roads - expect Glebe Road - have been removed from the plan.

But Susan Wales, from the action group, said: “The crowd were unconvinced by what he had to say or the repetition of the same mantra 'it is to protect services to the very young and the elderly'.

“The message is clear. We don’t want these charges to park in any of our streets.

“We will not give up until the proposal is withdrawn for good.”

Cash-strapped Cumbria County Council plans to introduce the charges across 11 towns in the county as part of a package of measures to save £70 million between now and 2017.

The demonstration took place just six days after Windermere Town Council passed a motion of no confidence in Cumbria County Council.

At that meeting a statement from Coun Stephenson was read out.

“The strength of feeling around this issue has been clear and so I have worked hard to reach an agreement that puts things right,” he said.

“I will be asking the local committee to drop plans for on-street parking charges in Windermere. Local communities can choose how many and on which streets to implement parking.”

Afterwards he added: “There is no appetite whatsoever in the committee for introducing the charges in Windermere and Bowness except for on Glebe Road.

“I think it represents a change of implementation policy having listened to the views of the local community which have been expressed in no uncertain terms.

“It would be good if people were aware of why it was considered in the first place - the state of local government finance is absolutely dire after government’s decision to cut 30 per cent from its funding.

“Cumbria County Council provides services which enable an elderly person to live in dignity or protect a vulnerable child from life-threatening abuse. If we have to pay traffic wardens without charging motorists then we might not be able to employ the social worker that could save a child's life.”

Cumbria County Council’s South Lakeland Local Committee will meet on July 17 to discuss changes to its original plans.

Earlier this month some 330 people attended a public meeting at the Marchesi Centre where there were fears that Windermere and Bowness would be turned into ‘ghost villages’ if on-street car parking charges were introduced.

And Lakes Parish Council also passed a motion of no confidence in the county council about the same issue at a meeting last month.

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