By Chief Correspondent Rob Thomas
DECISIONS on car parking charges and the introduction of free community skips in the borough of Gosport are to be made at Thursday’s Extraordinary Council.
However, the Liberal Democrat’s overall majority – they have 16 councillors to the Conservative’s ten and Labour’s two – means their proposals will almost certainly be passed.
Also, the Lib Dems want to push ahead with their proposals hence it is an extraordinary meeting rather than waiting for the next scheduled council meeting on July 20.
Changing car parking charges to revive town centre
The proposals on car parking charges first came to the council’s Policy & Organisation Board and introducing them, Council Leader Councillor Peter Chegwyn (Forton) said it has been a Lib Dem manifesto pledge in order to help revive the town centre which, “has been struggling for years”.
Once in place, the first hour of parking in the municipal short stay car parks – Coates Road, Church Path, Minnitt Road, North Cross Street, North Loading Bay, and South Street – would be free and the second hour £1.
The officer’s report notes the change would cost the council an estimated £28,651 per year in lost revenue.
To make up this loss, it is proposed that the charges in the town centre’s long stay car parks would increase by an average of 10.6 per cent – in most of the long stay car parks the charge would be £1.10 instead of the current £1 per hour, the exception being the Mumby Road Bus Station car park where the charges would rise from £1.10 to £1.20 per hour.
These increases are estimated to raise additional revenue of £29, 540 a year though it is unclear to what extent this figure takes into account the proposed closure of the Mumby Road Bus Station car park when the new bus station is built.
In addition – and justified on the basis of “consistency” – the hours that charges apply at the so-called ‘leisure’ car parks at Lee-on-the-Solent, Stokes Bay, and Alver Valley would be extended to bring them in line with the other car parks in the borough, namely 8am to 7pm.
The officer’s report states: “While there will be some financial benefit from this, there is insufficient information to quantify it at this time.”
At P&O Board the Conservatives attacked the proposals, particularly the costing with Councillor Stephen Philpott (Peel Common) saying it did not take into account having to employ enforcement officers to patrol the leisure car parks earlier and later in the day.
Conservative group leader Councillor Graham Burgess (Lee East) spoke about how the charges in the morning and evening at the leisure care parks would impact those who wished to jog or walk their dogs, and ended by labelling the changes as: “Robbing Peter to pay Paul”.
Responding, Mr Chegwyn said the scheme would be monitored and whilst he wanted to remove Gosport town centre car parking charges, “we are going to be financially prudent.”
Free community skips will cost council £45,000 a year
However, the officer’s report on the introduction of free community skips makes it clear that the funding of the £45,570 estimated cost is not yet decided – it will be brought back to a subsequent meeting of P&O Board once, “a procurement exercise in order to obtain suitable bids” has been carried out.
The stated aim of the community skips is to, “reduce fly tipping” in the borough and the proposal is to hire three skips every Saturday – except at Christmas and Easter – “each week alternating between the borough’s 14 wards” – approximately one skip in a ward every five weeks.
The skips would be for, “unwanted bulky household items” and would need to be managed by council officers to prevent the disposal of hazardous waste – such as, tyres, paint, electrical equipment, and gas cylinders.
The opposition from the Conservatives on P&O Board was both long and detailed as they felt – in the words of Councillor Philip Raffaelli (Anglesey): “I don’t believe this has been thought through.”
They concentrated their arguments on the funding because the board was being asked to agree the expenditure – the officer’s report stated: “the Board approves the additional funding” – even though the full cost would not be known until the procurement exercise had been completed, and any additional payments to officers managing the skips plus the risks of extra handling and haulage costs had been included.
In addition, they claimed the policy would not be accepted by Hampshire County Council and would not meet the requirements of Project Integra – the county’s collaboration of local authorities to prevent waste and promote recycling.
But the Lib Dems refused to accept the criticism with Councillor Rob Hylands (Brockhurst & Privett) saying: “This is something that residents have asked us to bring back. We need to find ways of making it easier to dispose of their waste.”
And while Councillor Chegwyn admitted, “we are trying something new”, he added: “We are going to clean up this town”, but accepted the scheme would be reviewed after the first six months.
So, the stage is set for Thursday – June 9 – evening’s Extraordinary Full Council meeting, the agenda and papers for which are available online on Gosport Borough Council’s website.
Photograph (top): South Street car park where parking for one hour could be free.