Conservatives told to start "properly representing" interests of Harrogate motorists

Parking machine in Harrogate
Parking machine in Harrogate

A Lib Dem councillor has told the Conservatives to begin "properly representing" Harrogate motorists following the unpopular approval of Sunday parking charges.

North Yorkshire County Council approved the controversial plans, dubbed a "stealth tax" by campaigners, in July following a year of fierce debate.

The plans were approved despite overwhelming objections from Harrogate residents, with just seven per cent of those consulted by the county council in favour of them.

Harrogate Borough Council backed the proposals after the county council published evidence from parking surveys, showing occupancy of spaces on Sundays was "very high".

However, Coun Matthew Webber (Lib Dem, New Park) accused the council of failing to represent motorists' interests during a Full Council meeting on Wednesday, October 5.

Coun Webber said the county council had "ignored" residents but Coun Rebecca Burnett, cabinet member for Planning and Sustainable Transport, stressed the council "fought hard" to bring information into the public domain.

She told the Full Council: "I had been in contact with the county council during this process and it was very clear initially there was some confusion about why the charges were suggested.

"The county council reacted very well in taking the proposals off the table and putting more thought and more detail in so they could be brought forward for people in a way they can better understand.

"It's quite clear that as councillors every decision we make isn't going to be supported by 100 per cent of the people, in fact some of the decisions may not be supported at all but that doesn't mean that they are wrong.

"What was wrong with the process initially was that people did not understand why the changes were being proposed. So even though people still didn't agree with it they can understand why this has happened."

Motorists were angered further last month after the county council announced increases to on-street parking charges.

The increased charges will be introduced in November, coinciding with the Sunday parking charges, in a bid to "incentivize" motorists to use council owned car parks.

Coun Webber asked if the council supported the county council's plans to "raid the pockets of residents again" by increasing weekday charges.

"There is clear guidance from government that parking charges in any town should encourage people to park off street," Coun Burnett replied.

"We have a situation here where some of the off-street parking is more expensive than the on-street parking. That clearly isn't happening so I understand the reasons that it's been made.

"I also think in our town here whether it's on street or off street it's incredibly cheap compared to some of the other places across the country. It's not like people are having their pockets pinched to come and park in Harrogate.

"In fact, I put the question out that in this district where we suffer from congestion so much, are we doing enough to persuade people not to drive their cars in, I'm not sure we are just yet."