January report from our local MBC Borough Councillor.

Hollingbourne’s local Borough Councillor is Patrik Garten (Conservative) and his monthly report for January appears below.

The trouble with January is, that not much interesting happens, at least not interesting enough for me to have another monthly rant….- or maybe ? yes ! here is a subject which will steer emotions:
Parking !

Maidstone Borough currently provides over 4900 car parking spaces in town. That is council owned parking space, not counting the private ones like e.g. Fremlin.

Why does the Council charge for parking? Because parking is a valuable service which the Council provides. It is therefore only just to charge for it. – Mmh?…not my words but I can see some sense in this reasoning.

Across the party political spectrum in Maidstone, it is widely agreed that the Council’s parking charges follow roughly the private sector’s market valuation of this service. Meaning to say that, if private parking costs X, then MBC will charge approximately the same or slightly less for their spaces.

Ideally, town planners want as many people as possible in the Town-Centre, which is good for the economy, but as few cars as absolutely necessary, because they are bad for the environment. In order to square this circle, we politicians try to play with parking charges: The higher the charges, the lower the amount of cars used. At least this is the theory.

Until 2031 MBC plan to increase their parking charges by 50%.

“Oh shock horror !” I hear you scream. – Taking 13 years’ inflation into account and the value, which people place on convenience, this 50% increase is expected to only reduce the demand by less than 200 spaces: A rather small impact on the town’s economy.

In 2015, all four ticket machines were vandalized in Cardigan (Wales) and their council could not afford to repair the machines for three months. Result for the people of Cardigan! Without any parking restrictions in place, people were flocking back to the town centre. Store-owners claim that their sales went up by between 20% and 50% during that time!

That is indeed some food for thought. But how can we rid the town of that awful motor-car and still bring happily spending consumers to the shops?

Do I hear anybody mention “Park & Ride” ?

Oh what a wonderful idea, which Maidstone was keen to implement, as one of the very first authorities in the country, many years ago. And since then, a quarter of a million pounds of your taxes were spent year after year on subsidising 900 P& R parking places.

I would not mind trading off my convenience of in-town parking for free P&R.
-But hold on, the £250,000 do not offer free parking. The cost of subsidised Parking and (Bus) Riding is only marginally lesser than in-town parking and I have to wait for a bus.

Free buses may be abused by people who do not even park, while charging a non-subsidised fee for a P&R bus may make it uneconomical for a car with more than 1 or 2 passengers. Ergo: – charge for Parking and charge for Riding: P&R

Officers did suggest a package to make P&R more attractive by increasing the bus frequency or extending the service time. Unfortunately this would require doubling the subsidy.

This idea, one would assume, took off like a lead balloon. – Not at all! The Liberals (with some help of their Independent friends) embraced the idea, at least the latter part of it, to extend the bus service times.

That is over £400 000 of your council tax to subsidise 900 Pay & Park & Pay again & Ride spaces. (P&R)

Me think then: If MBC has so much spare cash to play with, how about building a multi storey car park with 900 FREE spaces in the town centre? At a subsidy of £400k per annum, this car park would be paid for in 13 years’ time.

– Ah, silly me, it is stated policy, in the Local Plan, to reduce traffic in the town centre.
– How could I forget ?

I am out of ideas (and page space too). If you have any magic ideas, you may want to contact Maidstone’s Parking Manager – or talk to your Councillor !

PATRIK GARTEN
MBC Councillor for North Downs Ward, including Hollingbourne

Councillor Garten can be contacted at PatrikGarten@Maidstone.gov.uk