Sunday, 7 August 2011

Some action on Penzance parking at last! but is it enough?

Ruth Lewarne on Lannoweth Road, illustrating the problem


Something has kicked some life into Penzance's three Liberal Democrat councillors, since the election in 2009, I haven't had a single leaflet and it has been very hard to ascertain what they are exactly doing. But in the last week with much fanfare Ruth Lewarne (councillor for my ward, Penzance East) Tamsin Williams (Penzance central) and Mario Fonks (Gulval and Heamoor) have organised a campaign for fairer parking for the town. They wish to reduce the first hour parking rate in line with other Cornwall Council car parks in other towns and make it free to park after 4pm. More later on these plans, but do sign the petition if you can Cornwall Council needs to listen on this one, (can't find it online)

I must say I have a few vested interests here I live in the center of Penzance (PZ East) and parking is a nightmare and the problem is getting worse as time goes on. At the last council election I voted for Ruth Lewarne, for a number of reasons; there was no Mebyon Kernow candidate, she was the candidate who live the nearest to Penzance; Heamoor, (Labour was from Newlyn and an Independent from St Hilary (there were also Tory and UKIP candidates). So I had some bias towards her and she was the only candidate to specifically mention the parking problem in Penzance and promised action on this. I have been a little disappointed subsequently that nothing has been forthcoming.

Since the election in 2009 the problem has got significantly worse, perhaps dues to the recession or rise in parking fees more and more people are deserting car parks in favour of street parking. The result of this is that Penzance's car parks are barely ever full. Part of me sympathises with this position: why pay to park when you can park for free? But as a result trying to get parked anywhere near our house is a real problem and some days we are lucky to park on our own street, which is annoying when its raining and we have to walk for five minutes carrying our young children.

Adding to the problem of people looking for alternatives for car parks is the fact Cornwall Council are increasingly looking to traffic wardens and parking fines as a source of revenue. A few years ago there was one traffic warden who patrolled our street, he'd pop by every wednesday afternoon. My street; St James Street like adjacent streets has legal parking one side and illegal daytime parking the other (mon-sat 8-6). So except 'traffic warden day' you could park either side and there was not much of a problem, but then the council employed another traffic warden and since then they do daily checks. As we found out parking on the wrong side of the road -not blocking the road at all- lands the driver with a £35 fine. In effect now all the people that would park both sides of this street and other streets are all looking to park in the half the spaces that were available! It's now a complete nightmare, seldom can you leave a parking space during the day without one, sometimes two cars waiting to park in the space you were in.

So I welcome (at last) some action on this problem by Penzance's Lib Dem trio, but I do not think the proposals go far enough. For a start parking after 4 PM is less of an issue the traffic warden has usually gone home by then and the number of shoppers and workers in town has decreased. I do not think the first hour parking fee is such an issue (it should of course be the same as the rest of Cornwall), a lot of people that park here, shop for longer than an hour in town or work in Penzance and are parked here all day so I think lower first hour charges wouldn't effect much.

I am actually surprised that the Liberal Democrat proposals are not more radical, the increases in council car parks by the Conservative and Independent coalition on Cornwall Council are not helping Cornish town centres one bit. Here in Penzance as elsewhere there are empty shops, what is needed is a radical reduction in parking fees across the Duchy. Also the proposed slashing of funding public transport, which will inevitably result in routes ceasing and passenger numbers falling, needs to be stopped. The council needs to start seeing itself  more as a provider of public services and less like a business. What Penzance needs, is cheaper car parking and credible alternatives to car travel such as public transport.

If I was given the choice I would trial slashing Penzance's car parking fees by half including season tickets, this would encourage people back into the town centre for shopping and encourage workers to park in car parks. More realistic parking fees would increase usage of car parks and help reduce the effect of loss of revenue from fees. The enforcement of parking fines and no parking zones needs to be more sensible, streets such as mine are wide enough for parking either side and traffic as wide as lorries to negotiate. Parking tickets in a residential area like this are unjustified and have not had the desired effect of getting more cars into car parks. For the sake of Penzance town centre and the town's residents I hope the powers that be in Truro will see some common sense and realise that we need more carrot in Penzance and less stick!

For more see Shock Rise in Parking Fines for Penzance 
Cornwall Council car-parks shunned as soaring costs bite
Unfairly High Car Parking Charges are Killing Off Trade