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Local people to set parking charges?

It is a feature of modern life that irritates motorists, shoppers and shopkeepers alike. Councils set parking rates in town centres at seemingly arbitrary levels, without consulting anyone. Such parking rates usually seem steep and off-putting to motorists. The fear of a fine, too, can dissuade car-borne shoppers from visiting the High Street.

It is a feature of modern life that irritates motorists, shoppers and shopkeepers alike. Councils set parking rates in town centres at seemingly arbitrary levels, without consulting anyone. Such parking rates usually seem steep and off-putting to motorists. The fear of a fine, too, can dissuade car-borne shoppers from visiting the High Street. With all those yellow lines and meters, it seems easier to shop at one of those out of town retail parks, with ample free parking, or even do your shopping online. This has been identified as one of the factors that are killing High Streets up and down the country and, at last, it seems that local people will be able to do something about it.

Local Government Secretary, Eric Pickles, wants residents to be given the power to force their local councils to review parking policies. The system would operate in much the same way as the online petition feature that allows the public to force debates in parliament. This feature on the Government's website allows the public to sign petitions on various topics. Any that get more than 100,000 signatures gets a proper debate in the House of Commons. A similar system, with lower thresholds, would force a Council rethink on parking for specific areas.

It has been revealed that councils across the country rake in £1.3 billion in parking fees and fines. This has been criticised as treating motorists as 'cash cows' and the new system being proposed would take decisions on parking charges out of the hands of council officers and hand back control to local residents. In a consultation paper, the Government says that any parking plans 'must meet the needs of residents and businesses'. Where this is not the case, locals should have the ability to petition the council to change the regulations.

The consultation paper states: "Reviews could include looking at the cumulative effect of additional yellow lines on town centres, and the charges for parking. In many cases changing conditions may provide opportunities for authorities to consider other options, for example, replacing yellow lines with short-stay parking places to allow people to pay short visits to local shops. One way this could be achieved could be by allowing local residents and firms (i.e. local taxpayers) to be able to petition the council to initiate a review of parking policy in a particular area. If a petition reached a particular threshold, the council could be obliged to undertake a review, with the final decision on the outcomes of the review being decided by local councillors."

It seems 'power to the parkers' is coming.

 

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