More from the charges discussions at the Nairn River Community Council meeting in the Community and Arts Centre on Wednesday night.
Cllr Peter Saggers was able to illuminate some of the financial thinking that seems to drive the Glenurquhart Road high heid yins in their odyssey to implement parking charges in Nairn and other towns in the Highlands, he said: “If I can come back on one point that Mandy made. I got figures on Monday from Shane Manning which says that car park bays generate between £300 and £1500 a year and the cost they are showingis , the annual cost for one bay, is £43.”
Shortly after that Tom Heggie said: “I think what we are trying to say is that we're trying to get as many figures clear, the outlines as possible so that they become, so we have something that is clearly defined and can be discussed properly and not go round in circles which is the other issue.”
A little on from that Loreine Thomson made an interevention: “The one comment that I have read in the document* clearly, itis well set out. The only thing that worries me about it is, looking at the local engagement with communities, it says the key message is about the proposals at, what the proposals are and why they are proposed. It doesn't actually say what input the community has to those proposals and just like the Brexit proposals if there are proposals brought forward to us that we don't like we don't want it to be take it or leave it like what we've got with Brexit. Because that's what it seems to me, because it is basically saying what would happen if the proposals cannot be taken forward. The choice is on service reductions and workforce so it is almost blackmail. It's just like the Brexit sort of deal again.”
Tom Heggie replied to Loreine : “I think there is a difference between blackmail and reality.” After a pause for laughter in the room to die down, Tom continued: “The reality is very, very simple if you don't have the money you can't pay the wages.”
More from the River CC meeting when time permits. It was a good gig and lots of important material for Nairn discussed. No doubt there will be plenty in the Leopold Street Thunderer about it all available next Tuesday morning too.
*Highland Council parking policy
This discussion and report reveal the inadequacies of the Council's policy proposals. The figures from a Council official quoted by Cllr Saggers are theoretical or notional. They represent only a tiny fragment of the financial picture. They are meaningless in relation to Nairn.
The costs and income from the very different existing chargeable car park bays around Highland, from Inverness city centre to Fort William to Aviemore, will vary wildly depending on local circumstances and, crucially, the availability of alternative options.
The critical requirement is to carry out a rigorous local impact analysis. The Council has to develop realistic models for calculating costs and forecasting revenue (both best and worst case scenarios). The policy proposals also have to identify consequential effects.
Such prior study is essential. It's not rocket science but it requires serious work. There is no evidence that the Council has done such homework in the three targeted localities. Nairn does not have a serious parking problem at present. Charging will create one. Even if only on Council-owned sites, charges will produce a damaging chain reaction or domino effect since the natural reaction of all drivers, visiting or resident, will be to look for alternatives. So...
- there will be increased pressure on the so-called Common Good parking areas (which will lead to calls for charges there);
- more cars will park in the 'free' customer car parks such as the Co-op, and the High Street banks. This will force them to introduce costly controls, surveillance, clamping or fines (as has happened in Elgin);
- more people will then look to park at the Community Centre, around Viewfield, on the grass at the Links, or anywhere else there is space, causing a management and access headaches for those venues;
- cars will be parked in adjacent side streets and residential roads, adding to hazards and congestion there and leading to extra overheads for warden-enforcement;
- shoppers will eventually give up and opt for (free) parking at Sainsburys and the proposed Home Bargains instead, further damaging local High Street retail. And visitors will just drive on to other destinations.....
So Cllr Heggie is right to call for realism. The hard evidence already available from the real world, in Angus and many other places where charges have been imposed, proves that parking-fee schemes are counterproductive. All these consequences are predictable. All will involve extra costs. All will reduce the mythically optimistic income predictions made by Council officials. All will be seriously damaging to the town and the local economy.
Our Councillors, the BID, and the local community need to mobilise now to prevent this stupidly misconceived policy from being implemented.
Laughter hasn't died down yet.
Also highly amusing was Cllr Heggie's non self-referential use of the term 'loose cannon'.
It is always a good "gig, folk don't know what they are missing, the best show in town.
Rita, spot on. Hope to comment soon on how we hear about the wonders of parking charges in Inverness, Ft William, Aviemore and Portree. If only we had their mass tourism to come along and shove the cash into the meters? Your comment hits the spot, will be used, thank you.
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