Councillor Bob Kilmister

Liberal Democrat Focus Team Councillor for the Dinas Cross Ward on Pembrokeshire County Council. Regular posts about Pembrokeshire County Council matters rarely published elsewhere. Focus working all year round, not just at election times. Learn more

Car Parking Charges Update

by admin on 25 September, 2009

This is the speech I gave to the Environment Overview and Scrutiny Committee on Friday 25/09/09.  They subsequently agreed to go ahead with the necessary statutory notices to introduce car parking charges in Fishguard, Narbeth, Newport, Milford Haven and Pembroke Dock.  I was able to speak for 4 minutes but not vote, as I am not a member of this committee.  There was an excellent debate with contributions from Sian James and Moira Lewis plus some excellent input from Myles Pepper, Sue Parkins and Rhys Sinnott who are Committee members.  It was very fairly chaired by Peter Stock but I was extremely disappointed with their final decision.  This is however not the end of the matter and I will looking for other ways to try and prevent it happening. 

My Speech:

In my 4 minutes I would like to concentrate on the financial aspects of these proposals. I spent 29 years in the retail trade, 12 as a store manager for J Sainsbury Plc at a number of very different stores.  Most of these stores had an individual turnover which exceeds all of the Town Centres listed with the exception of Haverfordwest.  As a result I believe I am very qualified to speak on this subject. 

Supermarkets NEVER charge for car parking unless they are forced to by a local authority.  There is a very solid financial reason for this and it is quite simply profit. They realise that free parking is ESSENTIAL to their business success.   

Local Authorities across Britain ignore these facts in pursuit of additional revenue.  They then complain that Supermarkets and out of Town shopping centres have killed their retail centres.  This is Rubbish!  Car Park charges, poor parking facilities, high rents & rates combine to kill off the Independent retailer.  Soon Town Centres are full of empty premises and the decline accelerates.  Councillors then blame the big retailers and internet shopping.  The blame really lies with their lack of understanding of what makes retail tick and their desire for a quick buck. 

If you look at the way Haverfordwest is developing my argument makes even greater sense.  The retail shops outside of the town centre all regulate their parking but do not charge.  They are expanding and more major names are promised.  Further development will probably follow in the local plan.  What is happening in central Haverfordwest meanwhile, is it thriving in the same way?     Fishguard, Milford Haven, Narbeth, Newport and Pembroke Dock will all decline sharply unless you reject these proposals. 

It is very easy to kill the goose that lays the golden egg.  Narbeth is a prime example.  Lots of good Independent retailers and free car parking has brought about a town centre shopping experience which many are prepared to travel to, even from outside this County.  We should be concentrating on replicating this example in Pembrokeshire and not killing it.   

I would particularly like members of this Committee to look at the lack of detailed financial information.   There is no cost benefit analysis.  How can Cabinet and this Committee make decisions without the relevant information?  This information MUST be in the public domain before a decision is taken.  This should be available for every site proposed. 

I represent a very rural ward. The third largest ward in Pembrokeshire.  All of my constituents have to travel to get most of their shopping needs.  There is very limited Public Transport and local car parking charges will simply represent a new STEALTH TAX on rural communities.  Rural communities are already suffering considerably in the current financial climate, yet this proposal will make matters worse. 

In addition  Puncheston & Little Newcastle areas have a choice as to where they drive to  for shopping.  Many currently choose Fishguard but any charges will in my view simply send them to Tesco & Morrisons in Haverfordwest.  The affect on Fishguard will be considerable.  Fishguard cannot cope with a drop in revenue as most retail outlets are already struggling.  All three Community Councils in my ward STRONGLY oppose these proposed charges. A very large number of my constituents travel to Newport for their Medical services. The proposed charges at this site would be a HEALTH TAX.  The Welsh Assembly Government has already acted to stop Hospital car parking charges but we are now proposing to introduce Surgery charges at this site.  This is fundamentally wrong. 

I personally use the Fishguard facilities a great deal and I am convinced that any charges will have a devastating affect on the retail economy.  Never has there been a worse time to consider charging.  Even the extremely poor Buchanan report makes recommendations which have been selectively ignored.  Why spend money on consultants and then ignore what they say without good reason? 

I have not mentioned off street parking or residents parking due to lack of time but these also represent serious issues in all locations. 

I implore members of this Committee to report back to Cabinet that no new car parking charges should be introduced in Pembrokeshire.

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