Parking protests kept at bay
Wednesday 11th October 2017 15:16 Ashton Business News Posted by Lee Wild

Business owners say they could be driven to the wall after plans to introduce on street parking charges in Ashton were approved by councillors.

Business owners say they could be driven to the wall after plans to introduce on street parking charges in Ashton were approved by councillors. 

The plans will limit free on street parking from the current one hour to half an hour. Then shoppers will be charged £1 per hour for a maximum two hour stay.

The new limited stay spaces will take up around seven per cent of Ashton town centre’s overall parking capacity.

Stamford Street in the centre of Ashton

 The council say that they hope it will encourage anyone staying for more than half an hour into the off-street car parks, which they say are the cheapest in Greater Manchester.

But business owners and residents packed into a meeting room at Guardsman Tony Downes House in Droylsden on Monday to voice their objections to the plans.

Councillors Barrie Holland (Droylsden West), Doreen Dickinson (Stalybridge South), John Taylor (Dukinfield), Bill Fairfoull (Ashton St Michael’s) and chair Cllr Kieran Quinn (Droylsden East) were all in attendance with the motion passing with a vote of four to one. 

Stalybridge Conservative councillor Doreen Dickinson was the lone voice voting against the proposals.

She compared Ashton to Stalybridge, saying: “Stalybridge was on its knees. At that time, we started the town team. I asked if Armentieres Square could be opened up. We went further than that, gave on-street parking and it’s picked up.

“Once you’ve had a devastation like the canal going through Stalybridge, it takes a long time for the town to get back on it’s feet. You’ve got Ashton; a total mess with all the renovations and until it’s finished you won’t see any results.” 

She pointed out that there are only two car parks near Stamford Street, so charging would create problems for elderly shoppers.

“The people who are spending are the middle-aged and the elderly and if you put them off shopping, it will be the death of those businesses,” she said.

 “The Conservatives want to help small businesses, not close them.

“The only difference in this plan and the one that was refused is a couple of bollards. 

“But there have been no accidents! They said that at the meeting. It’s for pedestrian safety, but I asked if there had been any accident statistics over the past two years and they said ‘not really’.”

Elderly

The Stalybridge South councillor also worried about the ability for older people to use the area: “There are a lot of elderly people that are thrilled to bits that they can work the internet. They’ve been on courses and they’re absolutely delighted! 

“But they don’t necessarily have smart phones! It’s those shoppers that can nip onto Stamford Street and nip into a couple of shops that it is going to affect.”

Around 20 people turned up to air their objections

Objections to the plans came from a range of sources. Business owners claimed that the introduction of an app for payment would discriminate against older shoppers who may not be able to use the system. 

There was also outrage at claims that those using the free half an hour would still have to use the app, something that the objectors say was not made clear in the opening remarks.

Ashton (Hurst) Conservative Councillor Paul Buckely said he was disappointed with the decision: “I am extremely disappointed that Tameside Council is introducing on-street parking charges in the town centre – a scheme that will have a massively damaging effect on businesses already struggling in Ashton.

“If the cost doesn’t deter shoppers from Ashton, then having to pay over a mobile phone will put off many residents, especially older people. 

“Residents across Tameside have told me that they won’t come to Ashton if this scheme goes ahead, but will shop in Glossop and Uppermill in future, where they have free on-street parking and the town centres are thriving.

“Last year the Planning Committee threw this scheme out, but, like all administrations who loathe democracy, they couldn’t accept the result. 

“They’ve introduced it through the back door, in the teeth of opposition from shopkeepers, local residents and the Conservative councillors. What is worst, an Ashton Labour councillor, the chairman of Ashton Town Team, voted in favour of this.”

He added: “I urge the Council to rethink and not destroy the businesses in Ashton with this potty scheme.”

In total the council received 166 letters of objection and a petition with over 2,700 signatures.

There were 50 objections on the grounds that it would have a negative affect on businesses, 43 objections to the tariff, 32 objections to the Cashless system, 18 objections to it being the same scheme that was defeated last year, 12 objections from local residents and five general objections.

Ian Saxon, Assistant Director of Environment Services, said that the current “status quo” of parking in Ashton could not go on and that it did not benefit shoppers or businesses.

Defending the choice of using a cashless system, he said that from an economic point of view cash machines are expensive and that the plans had to be revisited again as keeping parking as it is isn’t an option.

Review

Cllr Bill Fairfoull said he hoped the measure would push people to use off-street parking, encouraging people to stay longer in the town centre. 

He said: “We’re looking at it from two angles. The one-hour free parking on Stamford Street has proved very popular since we introduced it five years ago. 

“Since then we’ve actually reduced our car parking charges on the car parks. It’s quite noticeable on Stamford Street that there are a lot of cars actually double parked on the street. 

“My aspiration, as I also lead the Ashton Town Team, is to try and get some public transport down Stamford Street. That clears our way. 

“Also, we want to introduce a bit of footfall into the town. If people are coming into Ashton, they’ll pay a quid, park for three hours and hopefully have a wander round some of our 600 independent business, which includes the indoor market, outdoor market, the two commercial arcades and Stamford Street itself.

He added: “The technology side of things was a big concern and still is a big concern. I’ve talked to the officers and there will be some support. We’ve had some concessions in the fact it’s not just the phone app now, you can use a telephone. We’ll have to review and see how it goes and we’ve had a commitment from the leader of the council to do that.” 

The council also pledged to work with local residents and the Church of the Nazarene to find a solution for them, after an impassioned speech by Pastor Carl McCann on the impact the changes would have on parishioners visiting his church.

He said: “I feel sad that a very clear voice of a large number of people have not been listened to.

“I acknowledge that there have been concessions made that do bring the scheme closer to being acceptable and so I guess that we have to have a diplomatic view that we fought off one campaign and got a better campaign.

“It might not be what we like but it’s better than what we thought we were going to get a year ago.”

Spencer Grady, from Grade A Jewellery on Market Street, was angered by the decision. 

He said: “It’s discriminatory against people who are elderly, infirm and it’s an absolute joke.

“They just disregarded everything we said there, they had overwhelming objections to this. The amount of people that have objected to it and they still went ahead with it.”

The Royal Mail also sent a representative, saying that it would impact on their statutory duty to collect and deliver parcels.

But the council hit back saying that there wasn’t such thought given when the Royal Mail wanted to close down the delivery office less than a year ago.

Following the vote the report was moved forward, however Tameside Council Leader Cllr Kieran Quinn stressed the need to monitor the impact over the next six,12 and 18 months.