Thursday, November 15, 2018

Questions for Cllr Peter Saggers on parking charges from Nairn Community Councils - they cite 10 reasons why the charges will be bad for Nairn

The Gurn has seen a copy of the questions that Nairn West and Suburban CC and their colleagues at Nairn River CC have submitted to Nairn's Conservative Councillor Peter Saggers. It's a fairly long read but if you have concerns on the effects of parking charges on our community it will certainly be a good idea to make a cup of tea and sit down and read the following document:

Proposed parking charges for Nairn from 2018/19
October 2018
Initial response and questions from Nairn West and Suburban and Nairn River CCs

Dear Councillor Saggers

You asked us at a recent meeting of West and Suburban Community Council to come back to you with our thoughts on a way forward for implementing proposed parking charges for Nairn which were voted through by Highland Council in March without prior community consultation.
We have been told it is a matter of when, and how, not if, these charges are to be imposed on Nairn's residents and economy, as we, apparently, have no choice in the matter.

We would like to reiterate jointly the strong objection of local residents and businesses we represent, as the two Nairn town Community Councils, to the way these proposals are being forced upon our town, with no prior consideration of the informed experience of Nairn residents.

In our view the imposition of parking charges for Nairn is a highly irresponsible and economically unjustified intervention by Highland Council.
Furthermore , it demonstrates a complete failure by Highland Council to consult meaningfully, listen to and reflect the expressed views and needs of local communities, and a total disregard for the key principles of the Community Empowerment Act.

That said, we want as local communities to be involved and engaged in meaningful dialogue with Highland Council, so that we can understand exactly how charging for parking in Nairn, could impact on our local economy, tourist trade, public safety and residents’ quality of life.

We have yet to see a coherent business case and rationale to justify why these parking charges are viable in terms of revenue for Highland, without risk of damage to Nairn's local economy.

Until we have this background information, we are not in a position to make any constructive comments to Highland Council on what should or shouldn’t happen next

We would therefore ask you, as one of our elected members, to source answers to the following questions from Highland Council and bring them back to a future meeting of Nairn Community Councils to allow a properly informed discussion with residents on this issue and what should happen next, if anything.

Q 1 A What locations are already targeted for parking charges in Nairn ? (if any)

When Charges were agreed in principle in March at the Council budget meeting ( without prior public consultation) we were told of 4 parking locations proposed for Nairn.

3 were on Nairn Common Good Land , which means that these could not be put to any use without full consultation with the people of Nairn, as is required under law (CEA).
Q 1 B Have the 3 Nairn Common Good locations been ‘withdrawn’ from any pilot Parking Charges scheme for Nairn? 

Q1 C If so how will that affect revenue projections and annual targets?

The 4th location(LIbrary Car Park) is privately owned with the Council leasing it from the landowner, who is within his rights to raise the rent if the Council starts generating more income from this asset, thus potentially compromising any new parking revenue for the Council.

Q1 D Is the Nairn Library Car Park still proposed for Parking Charges?

Q1 E What are revenue projections for that location and annual targets ?

Can you clarify in the light of the above

Q2 Why is Highland Council still pursuing Parking Charges for Nairn when none of the sites proposed so far may be viable to generate an income stream as they stand?

Q3 Also for reasons stated above, why is Highland Council not first engaging, before implementation, in a full consultation process on possible parking charges with the people of Nairn, as is required under the Community Empowerment Act?

Q4 As regards the ‘Business Case’ for these proposals - we have several questions- as none of the numbers we have seen to date actually 'add up' to a viable scheme to benefit Nairn.

4A Can we see a credible business case for Parking Charges in Nairn, with a 5 year cash flow diagram showing initial costs of implementation , and ongoing running and maintenance costs for future years which indicate a long term viable income for Nairn at a local level. This should factor in projected loss of business through leakage from the local economy, and added costs of policing parking overspill outwith chargeable areas.

4B Can we see quantifiable evidence from other small towns like Nairn, where parking charges have generated sustainable local revenue or benefitted local economies?
(As it stands the only beneficiary here seems to be Highland Council)

Q5 Implementation costs and projected income

5 A Why is £30, 000 the target income to be raised annually in Nairn?
( what this is based on, how many spaces, and from which targeted locations in Nairn? )

5 B How much will it cost to set up parking meters, and other services and infrastructure to collect parking fees for Nairn?

5 C How much will it cost to run and maintain this service annually in Nairn? 

5 D How much will it cost to fund enforcement of parking charges in Nairn ?

5 E Will all these costs be deducted from Nairn’s parking charges revenue?

Q6- Enforcement and Traffic Wardens

6AHow much Traffic Warden time can we expect to see in Nairn in future?

6B Will Traffic Warden costs be paid centrally by Highland Council as part of central payroll or will they also be charged in future to Nairn’s Community Services budget?

We strongly object as Community Councils to any shortfall in parking revenue being docked from Nairn’s Community Services budget - but adding new enforcement costs would add insult to injury by expecting local residents and visitors, who choose to park here to use Nairn amenities, to pay to be further penalised and in effect punished for that choice.

We note upcoming consultation on traffic enforcement for Nairn in October

We believe that these new measures though long awaited to tackle current parking infringements in Nairn, will be used in conjunction with proposed new parking charges by Highland Council to draw more revenue out of Nairn into central Highland budget. Charging to park will cause significant economic and social damage locally -in terms of loss of business for our High Street shops and local businesses, accessibility issues for the less mobile, and negative messages to visitors. This measure will cost Nairn much more than a few parking fees

Looked at holistically at the Nairn locality level, the resulting cost in lost business income to the town’s fragile and interlinked local economy is likely to be many times the £30,000 revenue income targeted by Highland Council in parking fees.

The Association of Nairn Businesses, Visit Nairn and Community Councils told our elected members this, loud and clear, before March’s regrettable and possibly illegal budget decision

There is clearly no business case for investing significant sums of public money up front in a centrally driven, unproven scheme, in the face of a high level of informed local business and community opposition, to generate a mere £30,000 revenue for Highland Council.

This is a tiny sum in the context of Highland’s massive overdraft and potentially 6 figure sums of Developer Contributions currently unaccounted for Nairn’s Lochloy development, which have been a matter of concern recently at local Community Council meetings.
We are told by Highland Council that their new Parking Policy is an example of ‘localisation’, giving local communities more local control to generate funds and target spending on local needs. It certainly is not. The whole scheme has been contrived by officers at Glenurquhart Road HQ without any input invited from Nairn, and appears designed expressly to disempower local communities, not to empower them.

Q7 - The Bigger Economic Picture

Has any prior scoping work been done at a Highland level to quantify and project how local parking charges will benefit and not be detrimental to local economies?

If not why not ?

We expect the economic impact of parking charges in Nairn to be negative from Day One due to the combination of significant upfront and running costs and long term damage to local businesses and the tourist economy.

Put simply, this is a bad policy. Doing nothing is always less damaging than spending public funds in order to lose money.

Undermining Our Community Services Budget

We have been told that if local parking revenue targets of £30,000 to be imposed by Highland Council in Year One are not met that any shortfall will be deducted from Nairn Community Services budget .

This is neither acceptable or reasonable for our community. Some have called it ‘blackmail’
We need reassurance as Nairn residents that any upfront investment by Highland Council in implementing parking charges will not be clawed back in cuts to Nairn’s public amenities

Community Services looks after roads, drains, grounds maintenance of green spaces,cleansing, waste management etc: all services essential to sustain local business and Nain’s vital tourist economy. We have already seen service cuts ( eg reduced frequency of drain clearing) result in additional one off costs for emergency repairs, clean ups and other infrastructure problems. More cuts mean more such costs, plus damage to the tourist economy through loss of local amenities and public health and safety hazards, eg overflowing drains, uncollected waste, blocked routes.

Q 8 Can we see the last 3 complete financial years history of disaggregated spend on Community Services for Nairn, for each heading, including any reductions in service and emergency repairs required?

Q9 To help us understand the wider context for Nairn and Nairnshire can you also supply the following disaggregated figures for the last 3 financial years total revenue generated for Highland Council budget by Nairn and Nairnshire total spend on Nairn and Nairnshire by Highland Council % share of Scottish Government block grant for Highland, which is spent on Nairn and Nairnshire

In summary
We feel that the impact of parking charges will be entirely detrimental to Nairn

1 It will give Nairn the wrong message as a tourist town (‘come to Nairn and be pursued by Traffic Wardens’)
2 It will give the wrong message to locals (‘pay if you want to shop close to home’ )
3 It will put people off choosing to shop in, live in and visit Nairn . Many will go elsewhere
4 Local shops and businesses with tight margins will go out of business or move away
5 We will see more public nuisance and additional traffic congestion in our residential streets (causing additional policing and public costs) as people park there to avoid chargeable parking
6 The revenue target is not realistic, so no spending of public funds to implement the scheme has yet been justified. We need to see a viable and transparent business case
7 Local amenities and the tourist economy will be undermined if Community Services budgets are compromised
8 The whole scheme is being imposed with no respect for local views, and experience
9 Nairn is being blackmailed to implement parking charges or lose community services
10 This approach has damaged local confidence in Highland Council and our Councillors
Dick Youngson - Chair Nairn West and Suburban Community Council
Tommy Hogg - Chair Nairn River Community Council


Anonymous said...

Fort William that is arguably a much larger draw for tourists than Nairn has had parking charges for years and businesses on the High Street still seem to be in operation.

I can't say I look forward to parking charges in Nairn but I accept that Highland Council is in dire starights financially and needs to raise money

Nairn Mannie. said...

@ Anonymous 9:21am,

In Fort William you can park for 20 minutes for 20p in the carpark closest to the Banks and Post Office.

As I understand it, Nairn will not have this tariff available.

Anonymous said...

@ Anon 9.21 Why not 'Highland Council is in dire straights financially and needs to cut costs'?

Anonymous said...

It’s not arguably, Fort William is a bigger draw at the moment as it’s on the West Coast meaning they us parking charges to manage parking.... Nairn has no such issues. We are now just more reliant on the BID bring more people to the town.