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Visitors down before parking charges says Councillor – day after stating there was an ‘expected’ drop due to new fee

NOTE: This content is old - Published: Saturday, Jan 12th, 2019.

Wrexham’s Lead Member for Environment and a Transport has ‘hit back’ over figures apparently tweeted from a community council meeting saying visitor numbers at Alyn Waters were dropping regardless of new parking charges, although a day earlier he had said there was an ‘expected’ drop linked to the charges.

The Lead Member for Environment and a Transport Cllr Bithell cites ‘actual figures’ and has accused Cllr Gwenfair Jones of ‘pushing misleading information’.

On Thursday we asked Wrexham Council about the the below tweet, and also asked for the full year figures for Alyn Waters as well as all other parks where car parking was brought in to put full data into the public domain, as no further data at that point was public. That request was ignored.

We also asked the Lead Member on his thoughts on if charging has had an impact in visitor numbers, and in a reply figures were not disputed nor the conclusions that a drop in visitors were linked to parking charges.

In a general response the Council said, “The figures for visitors to the Country Parks where charging for car parks has been introduced has fallen this year (Ty Mawr, Nant Mill and Alyn Waters Country Park). This isn’t unexpected, when a facility introduces charges for the first time.”

Cllr Bithell added: “The drop in visitor numbers was expected due to the introduction of car parking charges but we are meeting our income targets for car parking following the Difficult Decisions consultation”.

You can read our full article on the topic yesterday here.

This morning Cllr Bithell issued a statement attributing the @Gwersyllt_CC account to Wrexham councillor Gwenfair Jones, saying she is ‘pushing misleading information’.

Cllr Bithell said, “The overall level of visitors to our parks are on target in line with our council plan presented to the Executive Board in December. The actual figures for quarter 1 & 2 figure is 283,000 against a target of 500,000.

“This shows that we are on track for visitor numbers across all our parks, not just Alyn Waters.

“Cllr Jones knows we are looking at the cafe and we have some exciting plans for the future at Alyn Waters which will be announced in the near future.

Cllr Bithell added, “Yes we have introduced car parking charges in our country parks and these were part of the difficult decisions but £1.00 is a fair price to pay to support keeping services and parks open rather than closing them. Plaid Cymru need to stop sending out mis-leading information rather than criticising figures for just one Country Park.

“A further report on performance is being presented to corporate governance scrutiny committee on 23rd of January where members can scrutinise the actual figures on visitor numbers which has decreased since 2016 prior to any car parking charges being introduced.”

After our article appeared the @Gwersyllt_CC account tweeted us @Wrexham a copy of data apparently presented to the community council on visitor numbers, it is unclear if this comes under the ‘misleading information’ as Cllr Bithell does refer to future ‘actual’ data perhaps indicating this could be inaccurate.

As we noted the source of the information is a twitter account that initially began life as appearing to be the official account of Gwersyllt Community Council, however claims to have been forced into a rebrand so is no longer an official account. The parallel Facebook page gave further detail on the business of the Community Council meeting, more than we can see is available anywhere else. The twitter account has previously tweeted contact details which match the official email account of the community council and implies those posting have access to the inbox.

Various ‘news’ accounts on social media popped up prior to the last council elections apparently run by various candidates or incumbents, with some still running now. With no rules in place over their use or clear declaration of who controls them, it is unclear on their use in the run up to any future election, or if they would be passed to a new councillor if the controlling councillor lost a vote.



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