Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 9:34 am on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Kevin Foster Kevin Foster Conservative, Torbay 9:34 am, 3rd February 2017

I do not think my hon. Friend’s intervention is heavy-handed at all; it is right that we discuss probing amendments to Bills robustly on the Floor of the House. There is already some provision in this regard. My own authority, Torbay, held the Torbay airshow last year. It was clear that one of its car parks would be very congested, so to avoid undue congestion it closed the car park for the day of the airshow but arranged for to be booked via a separate means. The solution met the need on the day, but if it was put in place more widely and challenged there would be a question about whether it was the right way to proceed. It was just a fix for the day.

If a council is going to look to take money out of large events in the manner suggested—for a market day-style event—it should go through a proper consultation process. One way of ensuring that large crowds do not come to events is for people to attend, park in a car park and feel they have been ripped off for parking; traffic congestion reduces the following year, because no one comes back. There is clearly a balance to be struck. It is great to have events that draw people into town centres. I am the Member for Torquay and Paignton, and most days of the week my town centre has problems with lots people wanting to park and shop, causing congestion; that is quite a pleasant problem to deal with, compared with the issues of the decline of the town centre that we have seen over the last 30 to 40 years.

I believe in local democracy. Councils do need to have the ability to decide to increase parking charges, and ultimately be accountable to voters for that. We can all think of instances of a council controlled by our party deciding to make a quick buck out of car parking, but paying the price for it at the ballot box shortly afterwards.