In reality it was probably a mixture of both. However a decision has now been made not to spread the cost of providing car parking across the district in a fairer manner.
As most of the fee-paying car parks are in my ward, I attended last Thursday's meeting of Stroud District Council's Cabinet. There, ruling members considered a detailed report on proposed changes to the way the council's 34 car parks are managed.
A quick summary, is that after a massive public outcry they decided not to introduce charges at the free car parks in Dursley, Wotton and Nailsworth. They also decided not to transfer a number of village car parks (and the cost of looking after them) to the people that benefit from them via parish councils. My previous blog on this issue covered this element in more detail.
That decision means that shoppers, visitors and people who work in Stroud will continue to subsidise the full cost of free parking almost everywhere else in the district. In May that resulted in a 100% hike in our charges.
Whilst speaking to criticise the Cabinet for failing to take this opportunity to spread the costs more fairly across the district, I did welcome a few of the other decisions.
- After years of denial, the council has finally recognised that there is a link between car parking charges and the viability of town centre shops - you can listen to Cllr Nigel Cooper admit as much in response to my questions (watch the live recording of the Cabinet meeting here (at approx 2hrs10mins)
- There will be a reinstatement of the popular Free Parking after 3pm in Stroud's Brunel Mall/London Road multi story car park (The cabinet agreed to my request for some decent promotion of this offer)
- The parking charges period will be an hour less in all car parks - 8am-5pm.
- A feasibility study will be carried out into pay on exit in Brunel Mall. This has been a long-standing request from traders fed-up with losing business as customers have to race back to their cars as they've spent too long in town! Cabinet agreed to my request that it should be as broad a study as possible to find the most suitable method.
The cabinet has agreed to revisit the whole parking issue in 18months time. So there is more to come on this issue. I will continue to press for a fairer system whereby other towns and villages at least have to cover of the district council's cost of providing them with free car parking. That is the only fair way to avoid all of the burden being put into the pockets of motorists in Stroud.