COMMENT: On-street car parking charges are another blow to beleaguered village (From The Westmorland Gazette)
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COMMENT: On-street car parking charges are another blow to beleaguered village
3:00pm Thursday 24th April 2014 in Opinion
AMBLESIDE is having to cope with more than its fair share of controversial issues at the moment.
Premier Inn is keen to open a £5 million, 64-room hotel at premises near The Struggle, sparking fears this will hit the business of local B&Bs, while Sainsbury’s has just won planning permission for a new supermarket near Hayes Garden World, despite concerns by some villagers that it will affect local shopkeepers.
Now many in the village are up in arms about plans to introduce on-street car parking charges on roads including Cheapside, Church Street, Compston Road, Kelsick Road, Market Place and King Street.
More than 500 people have signed an online petition set up by county councillor Heidi Halliday, with objectors also signing petitions at the Spar and outdoor outlet Head to the Hills.
Protesters fear the Cumbria County Council plans will drive business away from the centre of town.
It is easy to have sympathy. Ambleside has plenty of car parks but they are nearly all pay and display and the existing on-street disc parking - usually restricted to one hour - is useful for those just wanting to nip into the village, perhaps to visit the bank, the chemists or the library.
However, the county council argues it has lost so much funding from Whitehall that it is a case of either cutting more public services or trying to raise revenue through car parking charges.
It could be argued that, as Ambleside is such a tourist magnet, the pain of increased charges will be mainly felt by visitors.
Locals will disagree, particularly those who pop into Ambleside to access services from places like Rydal and Grasmere.
And if those heading by car to shop in Ambleside decide to use the free parking on offer at Sainsbury’s instead of paying on-street charges, then local traders may well feel further pain.
There is no easy answer. But if the council is determined to introduce these charges, perhaps it should be for an initial trial period to assess the real impact on local people and traders.
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