Parking charge protesters take to the streets

Todmorden business people and residents protest against the imposition of parking charges on car parks which have until now been free. Picture by Mike Holcroft of Water Street Gallery
Todmorden business people and residents protest against the imposition of parking charges on car parks which have until now been free. Picture by Mike Holcroft of Water Street Gallery

Businesses, commuters and residents took to the streets last Saturday to protest against parking charges.

Carrying placards and banners bearing the message they believe more charging will price Todmorden out of business, they marched from Water Street and along Burnley Road, Todmorden, to make their views loud and clear.

It followed a public meeting two days earlier at Todmorden Working Men’s Social Club, Halifax Road, where they outlined concerns about parking permits and charging, including Calderdale Council proposals to charge on three car parks in the town which have previously been free to park on.

They urged the council to look at other ways than basic charging and outlined a range of options trialled in other towns which could be studied. They want to meet the decision makers to express their worries and offer potential alternatives, and have urged individuals to send letters protesting the decision to Calderdale, in addition to existing petitions.

Colin Lyall, who runs Lyall’s book shop on Rochdale Road, said: “The way that charging is increasing across Todmorden will just kill the town.”

Calder Valley MP Craig Whittaker is backing their fight.

In the aftermath of more flooding affecting the town and with some businesses still in recovery from last year’s disaster they highlighted the extra cost permits caused to traders and residents in areas where schemes had been introduced. For businesses, traffic delays triggered by the on-going flood alleviation scheme had also adversely affected trade, they said.

More charging would see shoppers crowding free spaces at places like Todmorden Health Centre and discourage people from shopping in the town when these were full.

Proposals they are making include grading of car parks and free on-street parking by time, location and distance from the town centre, disc parking, a first hour for free after which people would more willingly pay for a second hour and free parking after a certain time in the afternoon to encourage families to shop locally after the school run.

Many of these features were offered to towns close by but outside of Calderdale - places to which Todmorden shoppers might be attracted if the current plans go ahead, they say.

A spokesman for the campaigners said businesses were even willing to explore part-funding customers’ parking such was their desperation over the issue though such a situation should not arise in a well-managed community.

MP Mr Whittaker said: “Still businesses aren’t open and yet Calderdale want to impose these charges in areas where traditionally there haven’t been charges.

“Campaigners have my full support behind them. The council really do have their heads in the sand.”

A recent High Court ruling involving Barnet Council said it was illegal to levy permit charges to raise money rather than manage parking and he questioned Calderdale’s motives citing the council’s own study as being titled “Parking Income Generation Study.”

But the council says charging is being introduced to help make car parks self-financing and could boost business by detering commuters who might take up a space all day from using them, opening them up for shoppers. And over the issue of residents’ permits Calderdale Council’s Head of Planning and Highways, Geoff Willerton, said: “Calderdale Council has introduced residents’ parking permit charges to cover the cost of running the scheme – the revenue that is generated is only used for this purpose, i.e. the scheme is self-financing.

“The council often receives requests from residents across the borough for parking permit schemes, but there is a cost to administer, enforce and maintain them. In November 2012 the council introduced a £25 charge for a resident parking permit, which was agreed by cabinet in August 2012.”

Residents in the Cambridge Street area of Todmorden are fighting an on-going battle with the council to have their scheme removed.