Anger over parking meter ‘u-turn’

Joseph Bulmer

PARKING meters in Ilfracombe and Combe Martin are here to stay - despite an apparent “u-turn” which has seen Devon County Council suspend its plans in 10 other towns.

Traders and residents are furious their campaign of opposition - with its 1,400 signatures - was not enough to prevent the installation of the dreaded pay-and-display meters, yet plans elsewhere are put on hold because the council had “listened to what people are saying.”

It said the process had been halted to allow it time to look again at the schemes, holding further discussions with traders, residents, and town councils.

But in Ilfracombe the meters are now poised to whir into life by the end of January along the High Street as well as Church, Portland and Fore streets, with 30 minutes free and then a year around charge of 50 pence per hour.

Machines along the seafront will charge seasonal rates of 50p for two hours, �1.20 for four in the winter, doubling to 50p an hour, �1.20 for two from May to September.

In Combe Martin motorists will get up to 30 minutes free and be charged �1 for an hour.

“I think it’s disgraceful,” said Ilfracombe High Street Traders president Nick Pedlar.

“We put our faith in these people by electing and they have made an almighty cock up right across the county – it’s obvious that they are spending our money without any thought.

“In Ilfracombe we had 1,400 signatures and were ignored. I don’t believe our county councillor stood up and shouted loud enough for us.”

Nicky Stavrinou from Dressed to Kill in the High Street was the driving force behind a campaign to gather signatures and support from customers and traders.

“It’s bad enough now,” she said, “the shops are closing, sometimes at the rate of one a week – if you take out the estate agents, pubs and charity shops there’s hardly any retail left.

“We were told at a meeting they would not start until April – now they are saying the end of January.”

But Ilfracombe county Councillor Geoff Fowler said he was also not happy by the “about turn” the county had performed.

“This was to be a Devon wide initiative, so I felt we should get in first and get the best deal we possibly could,” he said.

“At the time I thought we did, with the first half hour free and an undertaking that county would heavily finance our second pilot Park and Ride scheme for the town this tourist season.

“At the time I understood this was to be rolled out across the country – I was utterly amazed when I heard the news at the weekend. It was going to be rolled out without consultation and now they have suddenly had to back track because there was so much opposition.”

Mr Fowler said he would be asking cabinet member Councillor Stuart Hughes whether under the circumstances it would be possible to delay the start of the Ilfracombe scheme until Easter at least.

“Pay and display was brought in to the Seaside area as a result of local businesses suffering from inconsiderate parking for long periods of time resulting in potential customers being unable to park. This was a community led initiative which I was very happy to help out with,” she said.