Council pushed ahead with plan to cut free parking in Coulsdon, despite huge opposition
BRIGHTON Road in Coulsdon will permanently have its free parking cut from an hour to 30 minutes, after councillors voted to press ahead with the cut despite objections from more than 1,500 residents and traders.
On Tuesday the council’s traffic management committee voted 4-2 in favour of reducing free parking in Brighton Road to 30 minutes, down from an hour.
The issue was forced to a vote after the council’s ruling Labour group introduced the plan last December, prompting outcry from their Conservative opponents and Coulsdon locals.
More than 631 objections to the plan, along with a 878-name petition set up by Coulsdon West councillor Mario Creatura, and 543 objection letters were received by the council.
In response to criticism from the Conservatives over the U-turn, Kathy Bee, council cabinet member for transport, said her party accepted the promise was in their manifesto, “but having considered it, we decided that would not be the right choice”.
In a report considered by the committee, officers said the shorter time would increase turnover of parking spaces, allowing more shoppers to use the town centre.
“This should be beneficial to customers and businesses especially for short term shopping trips common to district centres,” the report said.
The council also said reducing the limit to 30minutes would bring Coulsdon in line with many other district centres across the borough.
Coulsdon West councillors Mario Creatura and Luke Clancy
Cllr Luke Clancy, also representing Coulsdon West, described the change as “the latest assault on parking in Coulsdon”. Cllr Clancy referred to the seven-month closure of Lion Green Road car park, which was shut for work to commence on a Waitrose supermarket only for that plan to fall through, meaning the council lost out on more than £100,000 in parking revenue.
Lion Green Road car park
“This feels perversely like the council is getting its revenge in some way, penalising residents further to make up for the revenue shortfall caused by its own incompetence,” he said.
Chris Philp, MP for Croydon South, said the fact he had missed House of Commons votes and a meeting with Chancellor George Osborne demonstrated the importance of the issue to his constituents.
“It is no exaggeration to say that parking in Coulsdon has been in absolute chaos for the past 12 months or so,” he said.
“There is strong evidence that when you introduce an hour’s free parking or maintain an hour’s free parking it has an enormous beneficial effect on local trade.”
Brighton Road in Coulsdon
He said people in Coulsdon were “at their wits’ end” over the problems. In response, Cllr Bee said the criticism implied the Conservatives did not think Coulsdon was a shopping centre worth paying to visit.
Labour councillor Robert Canning, a committee member, said it was “fanciful” to suggest parking charges would drive people to shop elsewhere.
Cutting the hour’s free parking is expected to cost £6,000 to reconfigure parking meters, though it is expected to raise more money in parking revenue, the council said in the report.
The Tories pointed out that Labour had reneged on a manifesto pledge, from the 2014 council elections, to provide one-hour free parking in district centresConservative Cllr Creatura claimed the council’s plan would penalise businesses and told Cllr Bee: “You say the reason why you are changing this proposal is to make it fair and consistent across the borough. Why not improve it across the rest of the borough to one hour?”