CALLS to scrap plans to charge for parking in Barry and Cowbridge town centres have been made by a local councillor.
Coun Ian Johnson’s plea comes after three years of heated debate between the Vale of Glamorgan (VoG) council and local traders. Residents from Barry and Cowbridge are opposed to the fees because of the impact they might have on town centre footfall and local businesses.
“The uncertainty over car parking charges in Barry and Cowbridge has gone on for far too long,” said Coun Johnson. “The Vale Council should start 2016 by admitting these proposals were wrong, would have an adverse effect on our town centres and announce that they are being scrapped immediately.”
In 2013 the VoG council proposed charging for off-street and on-street car parking in Barry and Cowbridge. Plans for on-street parking charges were scrapped in July 2015 but the council still hopes to charge for town centre car parks.
According to the VoG council website, fees are due to be introduced at five town centre car parks in Barry and Cowbridge by April 2016.
Motorists will have to pay at Kendrick Road, Thompson Street and Wyndham Street car parks in Barry, as well as the Butts and Town Hall car parks in Cowbridge.
The council promises that out of approximately 1,950 parking spaces in Barry, the charges will only apply to 146 public spaces, leaving 92% of Barry town centre parking spaces free of charge.
In Cowbridge, the fees will only apply to 179 out of the 800 public parking spaces in the town centre, leaving 78% free of charge.
The proposed charges are £1.00 for up to two hours, £1.60 for up to three hours, £2.20 for up to four hours and £5.00 for over four hours. This is cheaper than the fees imposed by Cardiff Council, where drivers are charged for one hour stays and the tariffs keep rising after the four hour mark.
The VoG council has to meet a funding shortfall of £25m over the next three years. Charging for parking is one way to meet this demand. A statement on the council website suggests that after the £350,000 car park maintenance fees, the charges could generate between £117,000 and £290,000 each year.
There is also a problem with all-day parking in Barry and Cowbridge town centres. The council argues that parking charges will help local traders by opening up spaces for short-term shoppers.
Local traders, however, are concerned that adding charges will push shoppers away. Dave Elliott, the Managing Director of TL Computer Systems Wales on Holton Road, Barry, said: “I don’t think they should charge for parking at all. All the traders I have spoken to are dead against the charges.
“People come into Barry town centre to get the newspaper. They should not have to pay an extra £2-3 to do this. They’ll stop coming here and our businesses will suffer.”
Mr Elliott discovered the proposal to introduce parking charges about seven months ago and set up a petition to oppose the plans. The petition generated enormous support and over 5,000 people from Barry and Cowbridge expressed their concerns.
Similar anxieties are spreading in other Welsh towns. After parking problems in Bridgend town centre, Shadow Transport Minister at the Welsh Assembly Byron Davies said: “Councils everywhere must realise that parking fees are not the answer to their financial problems and that they are in danger of killing the goose that lays the golden egg.”
However, the VoG council is confident that by increasing the availability of spaces by warding off long-stay visitors, they can help Vale town centres thrive.
Coun Johnson argues the opposite: “If our town centres are to be given a chance to thrive, then introducing charges to people who want to spend their money in our shops is one of the last things we should do.
“2016 is the year that the Vale Council should consider what will be best for our town centres, and not what is best for the council.
“We want to see more people shopping in our town centres, spending more money.”