Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 10:00 am on 3rd February 2017.

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Photo of Jo Churchill Jo Churchill Conservative, Bury St Edmunds 10:00 am, 3rd February 2017

Surely my hon. Friend takes my point that local councils are, in the main, the people who should be deciding this. We have a very confused landscape. In Stratford-on-Avon, as he mentioned, the town council owns the car park. In two-tier authorities, the county council often owns car parks in towns that do not have the ability to flex the charges and use the money for their locality, as happens in ours. In such a situation, variation might happen, but because somebody else is setting the rules, it is not driven by the people in the locality who want the outcomes that he seeks.

I would welcome the creation of local accountability that gives people within borough councils or district councils in two-tier authorities the ability to set the rates and collect the revenue. At the moment, it is a longwinded process, in that it takes two years to apply for various changes in legislation, and so on. In Bury St Edmunds, a town of 40,000 people, there were 550 long- stay car park uses and 1.387 million short-stay car park uses last year.

We have problems in the medieval grid, and I was pleased to see the masterplan come out this week. It says that we will have a policy of using varying procedures to stop the off-street parking that blights so many people’s lives, particularly in the medieval quarter of the town. We must provide solutions and give local councils the ability to set the right solutions, and the masterplan encourages a blend of “pedestrian first” measures to restore and keep the medieval grid for pedestrians, tourists, shoppers and residents. The small grid, which is not only beautiful but historic, needs attention to make sure that it is not blighted by parking. I agree with my hon. Friend that we have a vibrant economic environment and that people need to park for work. Luckily, we have a wonderful tourist attraction that draws people to the town, but other market towns very much need the flexibility to vary parking charges.

What concerns me is that, with this amendment, we might be using a sledgehammer to crack a nut. As my hon. Friend Helen Whately said, the amendment seeks to do what is already in the Bill.