Parking bombshell as Fenland council gives green light to probable charging

MOTORISTS will wake up today to news that within the year they are almost certain to be paying to park in Fenland towns.

The bombshell was dropped at last night’s meeting of Fenland District Council Cabinet, which endorsed a report paving the way for both on-street charging and for pay and �display in local car parks.

Fenland’s one-stop shops will �probably be utilised to collect �penalty fines but, more importantly, the council sees the move as a way of balancing the books in the face of wide-ranging cuts in public sector financing.

Councillor Alan Melton said after the meeting: “As leader, my job is to ensure we have adequate resources to provide front line services.

“Already the car parks which we own are �400,000 in deficit because of debt charges and we have had to ask ourselves is this sustainable in the medium term.

“As a councillor I don’t like paying extra charges but there are now very few councils that do not charge. It seems to me most public �organisations now charge for �parking.”

Fenland has already identified �3.6million savings but may have to find a further �2.1million over the next five years.

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“Bearing in mind our existing car parks in March and Wisbech are already full, we will also need to look at other options which means huge revenue and capital impact on a budget that is already stretched,” said Cllr Melton. One possibility is to look at �private �sector �running car parks where �Fenland would find them the land or site and they would build and manage them.

“With land costs as they are to �provide a car park with infrastructure

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including CCTV, street lighting and safety measures is a very expensive operation,” he said. “The last car park we bought was 20 years ago.”

Fenland was forced into making a decision by the growing unlikelihood of police maintaining enforcement of street parking.

The district will join a new Cambridgeshire County Council initiative of civil enforcement whereby on street charging will be introduced in March and Wisbech. Both on street and off street parking will be enforced by the county council who will collect the parking fines income.

Revenue from the district’s car parks will go to Fenland Council and Cllr Melton hopes this can be “ring fenced to provide better and more parking facilities and not to subsidise the general revenue account.”

The report adopted by councillors put it bluntly- there will be “no return to the original arrangement” once Fenland joins the Cambridgeshire scheme.

Cllr Melton added: “Now is crunch time. It won’t happen overnight but, quite frankly, existing car parks such as Church Terrace in Wisbech need a lot spending on money- and frankly at the moment we haven’t got it.”

What the people of March had to say on the issue:

MARK GILLETT: It was inevitable that it was going to happen because they want the money. I live in Chatteris and I come here to shop. If I have to pay to park my car then there’s not much point in me coming here.

JAMES HAMILTON: March is such a congested town anyway. The charges are just going to cause bad feeling amongst residents that are less and less happy with the services that they are having cut. It’s all take and no give.

DIANE BURRIDGE: We are lucky in March because there are not many places where you don’t have to pay to park. We should definitely keep it free. A lot of people use this car-park when they’re at work so it’s going to be very unpopular.

STEPHANIE GRAY: I’m not happy about it. We pay for enough as it is, it’s ridiculous. If people are parking all day then maybe they should pay but if people are just popping in then charging them will be unfair.

SHERYLL RAINE: I think it’s disgusting. This isn’t London. You can understand charging in a city but not in a small town like March. It just doesn’t make sense.