LETTER: Theory has not worked in practice for ELDC’s car parking policy

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I would like to take this opportunity to respond to the letter published in the Horncastle News from Coun Tony Bridges and the article ‘ELDC car parking changes do not go far enough’ featured on Wednesday, January 15.

The absolute facts regarding the changes in car parking policy by ELDC are clear.

The council’s attentions, as stated by Coun S Newton, reported in the Horncastle News June 19, 2013, ‘was to increase revenue from car parks by £400,000 to help maintain services to the community and keep the lowest council tax rate.’

This was a reasonable theory in principal which, unfortunately, has clearly not worked in practice.

We have empty car parks in Horncastle with, in my opinion, the town suffering an economic downturn because of the council’s actions, additional income from parking is below expectation and now ELDC are proposing an increase in council tax.

In common with Coun Bridges, I too had a successful business (in Horncastle, not Louth), in the 1980’s.

I also still had a successful business in Horncastle in 2013 before ELDC’s parking policy had an adverse affect on the number of people who would have liked to spend longer browsing in my bookshop, but feared a parking penalty.

I was invited by ELDC and accordingly attended a meeting of the Scrutiny Group in November to put forward my views that a market town with the many attractions that Horncastle offers should provide visitors with at least one free long term car park.

I suggested the ideal site was The Wong and it should be reinstated to its free status.

I also expressed my concern regarding the fact that there were too many empty spaces in all the car parks in the town with visitors only parking for short periods on the car parks and that unregulated side streets are the motorists’ choice for long term parking.

Since the introduction of charges, together with the penalties, The Wong car park is hard used.

The two enforcement officers can be seen sitting in their van whiling away the time allocated to patrolling the car park because there are few and often no parked cars at all for them to check.

There can be no doubt that this is a clear indication of ELDC’s apparent inability to accept the situation is both a financial loss to the council and no value to the town.

Council tax payers are paying for two vans, each carrying two officers, to visit and patrol a car park seven days a week that is virtually unused.

This must be, without doubt, the most obvious example of poor administrative judgment and a possible explanation why ELDC find themselves in the financial difficulties they are in. It is an example for all to see, at any time of day, any day of the week on The Wong car park.

The mistakes which were made when the changes were introduced in April 2013 were more than likely due to the fact that ELDC assumed motorists would simply accept the charges and the 18 potential infringements which the Enforcement Officers had at their disposal.

However, with hindsight, the council has had the opportunity to see this assumption was incorrect and a more considered course of action than the proposals recently announced should have been adopted.

An extra hour free on some car parks will benefit a section of motorists but will have no advantage in Horncastle for the visitor wanting to park for a longer time without the risk of prosecution and, I suspect, the only outcome will be a further drop in revenue for the council with no gain whatsoever for the town.

R Ingram-Hill