Plans to introduce parking charges for Blue Badge holders and in three country parks will press ahead to the next stage after receiving unanimous support from lead councillors.
The proposals, which were presented to the Executive Board this morning, had featured as part of the recent Difficult Decisions budget consultation and are seen as being “well received” by the public.
Currently Blue Badge holders can park for free in council-operated car parks in Wrexham. However a report presented to the board this morning propose that disabled parking charges are brought “in line with non-disabled tariffs across all Wrexham County Borough Council-operated car parks where charges apply.”
A concessionary extra hour would also be available for Blue Badge holders. For example, those paying for a three-hour stay would be able to park for four hours.
The report also detailed plans to launch a statutory consultation on introducing a £1 a day parking fee at Alyn Waters (Llay and Gwersyllt), Ty Mawr and Nant Mill.
A concessionary annual parking permit of £50.00 which could be used across the three sites, would also be introduced.
Speaking at this morning’s meeting, Lead Member for Environment and Transport, Cllr David A Bithell said: “This is the operational matters concerning the implementation of charges for disabled parking and parking in country parks.
“The purpose of the report is following the Difficult Decisions consultation, which was generally supportive of introducing charges for disabled parking and in our country parks.
“The proposal outlined in report is to charge disabled Blue Badge holders to pay to park in all council-operated car parks with the mitigation of an additional one hour. For example in the Library Car Park which is a short stay car park, there will be an additional one hour and so forth depending on which particular car park used.
“I would stress with Blue Badge and disabled parking, it is not the ability to pay. If look in the report are a number of designated places where Blue Badge holders can park for free of charge. There will still be a number of areas where Blue Badge users can park for free.
“The second element is in our country parks. This was part of the Difficult Decisions consultation and this is to introduce a charge at Alyn Waters, Ty Mawr and Nant Mill.
“There will be £1 charge per day plus new pay and display machines to be installed at each location, along with a £50 annual season ticket which will be transferable across all country parks if members of the public decide to take that option up.”
In moving the recommendations Cllr Bithell also explained that a statutory consultation process will begin subject to Executive Board approval.
The report was seconded by Lead Member for Youth Services and Anti-poverty, Cllr Paul Rogers.
However the proposals for Blue Badge holders faced criticism from opposition councillors, who questioned whether the investment needed to install additional parking machines were worth the amount of money the charges would generate.
In a series of questions posed to the lead member, Cllr Marc Jones asked if all the council’s parking machines are accessible to disabled users and given that disabled people can park on double yellows and on street parking, are Wrexham Council convinced the proposals are going to raise any money at all.
He added: “We have proposals for councillors to be charged for car parking. My understanding is councillors will be paying less money than disabled people will. That can’t be right. I hope the people of Wrexham will respond to the consultation.”
Cllr Bithell said: “We would encourage people to park in our car parks. We have spent a lot of money investing in new car park machines, new disabled bays and you can pay by cash, card and mobile phone.
“So we have invested quite heavily in last couple pf years to encourage people to pay, if do want to park on public highway thats a matter for each individual.
“I am sure people will continue to park in them as ones like the Library and Market Street car parks are accessible.”
Concerns were also raised about the impact the £1 parking fee could have on on people who use the parks and those who live in residential areas nearby.
Cllr Brian Cameron, asking on behalf of Cllr Derek Wright, queried if the revenue raised from the ticket machines will be reinvested into the country parks. However the meeting was told this would not be the case and that the revenue will be put back into the environment department’s budget.
Reference was also made to an article published by Wrexham.com earlier this week, which documented concerns raised by Llay Youth Football Club about the impact the introduction of parking fees at Alyn Waters could have on their training sessions and match days.
Speaking to Wrexham.com earlier this week, a spokesperson for the club said they were “shocked” to hear of the proposals and were fearful that the charges could force players to leave the club or drop out of football altogether due to the additional costs.
Commenting on the potential impact, Cllr Cameron noted he ‘doesn’t want to see local youth teams being affected’ and that it would be ‘added strain’ on clubs.
Cllr Bithell re-iterated his earlier comment to us stating that Wrexham Council was not aware the club was training or playing there.
He continued: “I must stress the field they were using wasn’t a marked out football pitch and there are no goal posts there. It wasn’t available to hire through the environment department’s hire system and it wasn’t a bookable pitch. They were using it as public open space.
“There has been a conversation with Llay United and I’ve spoken with Rob (Walsh) and we are looking at alternative provision. They can continue using open space if they so desire or can take alternative provision elsewhere.
“They do pay to play at Shones Lane in Llay and we do offer discounted season tickets for football clubs. I do think there is adequate provision for football clubs and this board has given a commitment to reduce our season tickets.
“There is an ongoing dialogue with Llay United. We weren’t aware they were playing or training there.”
Cllr Rob Walsh, who represents the Llay constituency, welcomed the comments about the football club, but explained he also has concerns about the knock-on effect the charges could have on park users parking on the streets, rather than in the country parks themselves.
He also called for clarification on when the statutory consultation will launch and if it would be a ‘second chance’ for residents and the likes of Llay YFC to put across their views.
Cllr Bithell explained that the statutory consultation is in effect a traffic regulation order and will be “published in the local press” in the next couple of weeks. The consultation will also run past the Full Council in February.
Commenting on people parking on roads outside of the parks, Cllr Bithell added: “We are looking at some mitigation works towards that.
“You as lead member or other lead members associated need to liaise with officers in the environment department if parking outside country parks becomes a problem.”
Plans to launch statutory consultation on the proposed introduction of parking fees in the three country parks and for Blue Badge Holders in council-operated car parks, were supported unanimously by all members of the executive board.
A statutory consultation on the proposals now take place – so keep an eye out on the back pages of the Leader, as details of how you can take part can will only be published there – despite the implication it will be in other outlets. Such adverts often cost several hundred if not thousands of pounds, as we have documented before.