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Town council calls for review after free parking confusion

By Cheadle Post and Times  |  Posted: May 25, 2014

By Abbey Buxton

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TOWN leaders are hoping to meet with the Staffordshire Moorlands District Council cabinet member for parking in the hope of resolving issues over recent confusion during a free parking event.

Staffordshire Moorlands District Council allocated free parking in the pay-and-display car parks in Cheadle for the St George's Day Market on April 19.

But after a number of people were given fines after parking on Tape Street car park, it emerged that the free parking there was only for three hours, not all day as was believed.

The district council say that the maximum stay on Tape Street car park is three hours, therefore the offer of free parking was also for three hours, and all day free parking was available on Well Street car park.

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But, Cheadle Town Council is concerned that the confusion will put people off visiting the town for future free parking events.

Councillor Ian Whitehouse said: "There were signs saying free parking, then we found out it was only for three hours.

"It doesn't do anything to encourage people to come into Cheadle.

"Some people had to rush back to their car to avoid getting a fine, and if they left they could not return within one hour; it's ridiculous.

"We're trying to encourage people to come into the town; we've got Totally Locally helping to boost the town, but we're still making people pay for parking.

"For past events we had a whole day, so why did we only have it for three hours? Free parking should be all day."

District and town councillor Julie Bull said: "We should ask Staffordshire Moorlands District Council for this rule to be reviewed on these special days.

"I don't really know where it's come from because they have to send someone down to monitor the parking in this case, otherwise how can they be sure that someone has parked over the allocated time, so it's costing more to do it this way."

Councillor Peter Elkin added: "Free parking should be all day.

"People who got fines genuinely believed it was all day free parking only to come back to their car and find out they had a fine; it's disgusting."

District and town councillor Stephen Ellis said: "Historically the district council has been pretty good at identifying things like this and making sure notices are clear.

"When we've had other events the machines were covered up as well as notices put up.

"It's not worthwhile sending wardens down, it doesn't make sense to have someone walking around the car park and is a waste of resources.

"There has been clear confusion because other events have had all day free parking."

Councillor Alan Banks said: "I'm not defending this by any stretch of the imagination, but when you look at the signs by the pay machines it does clearly say maximum stay three hours.

"Does this apply to the long stay car parks as well, so if you park there it is all day?"

Councillor Gary Bentley said: "I was led to believe it was free parking all day long.

"It's not instilling the feel good factor we're after; the idea is supposed to be to get people to enjoy Cheadle, especially coming from other areas, but they won't be encouraged by this."

Councillor and market trader Dave Sargeant said: "There were notices on the pay machines stating the maximum stay is three hours, but people didn't go to the pay machines because it was free parking."

Cheadle Town Mayor councillor Ron Locker said: "Trying to implement by-laws on a car park for free parking is just ridiculous.

"The district council needs to review its whole car park strategy.

"It won't be the first time this sort of thing has happened, it is very confusing and it's not on.

"We're trying to promote the town with this new Totally locally scheme and there is a number of new shops opening as well.

"It doesn't work and is a false economy and is giving the town a bad name.

"We need to ask the portfolio holder to discuss it with us because it is our town that is suffering.

"In the meantime we need to make sure that all the signs that go up clearly state that it is free parking for three hours."

County and district councillor Mark Deaville agreed with the points that were raised.

He suggested inviting the district council's cabinet member for parking to a meeting to discuss the issue.

A spokesperson for Staffordshire Moorlands District Council said: "Free parking was provided for the St George's Day market following a request from Cheadle Town Council.

"Motorists were able to take advantage of it for the duration of the maximum stay at each car park.

"Tape Street is ideally situated for all town centre amenities and the maximum stay period is in place to ensure that the car park is available to as many people as possible.

"The signs clearly stated the arrangements, which were understood by the majority of motorists with only a handful of penalty charge notices issued for overstaying the maximum period."

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