Thursday, 2 February 2012

Councils Back Businesses After Group Says They Should Pay To Park

Proposals to make businesses across the whole of Cambridgeshire pay to park at their own company to try to reduce traffic on the A14 has been criticised by councillors.

Council chiefs say proposals being put forward by the Campaign for Better Transport would harm business and penalise companies who never go near the A14.

The proposal was made as part of the campaign group's submission to the A14 challenge which is looking at ways of improving the route.

Councils agree with some of the suggestions, which are already in motion, such as reducing freight on the A14 by improving the rail links.

But council chiefs from Cambridgeshire County Council, South Cambridgeshire District Council, East Cambridgeshire District Council and Fenland District Council fear work place charging would set back the economy not grow it.

Cambridgeshire is recognised as an area which could help drive the national economy and councils are working hard to support companies and make sure the area is open for business.

Cambridgeshire County Councillor Ian Bates, Cabinet Member for Growth and Planning, said: "The idea of putting a blanket work play levy across the whole of Cambridgeshire would harm the economy at a time when we should be doing all we can to support business. Why should a local company in Wisbech whose business comes nowhere near the A14 see their staff having to pay to park? Some of the ideas have merit but we must do all we can to make sure the message is loud and clear - Cambridgeshire is open for business. That is why we are investing heavily in broadband and transport projects such as Chesterton Station and Ely Southern by-pass to help grow the economy."

Cllr Nick Wright, South Cambridgeshire District Council's Cabinet Member for Economic Development, said: "We need to find solutions to the current problem on the A14 that gets traffic moving, but a stealth tax on businesses is simply not the way to do this. Many rural firms in South Cambridgeshire do not use the A14 and this would be a bitter blow for them, especially at a time when our focus is on helping them through the national downturn and creating new jobs."

Cllr Peter Moakes, Leader at East Cambridgeshire District Council, said: "Our district and Cambridgeshire as a whole will be helping to drive forward the economic recovery which our country badly needs. A key part of this is to have the infrastructure in place to support sustainable growth and this means tackling the significant problems the overcrowded A14 causes. However this is not just a problem for the region it is an issue of national importance. Therefore it cannot be solved simply by introducing a parking levy on businesses who will only be hindered by such a move, thus damaging our economic prospects."

Fenland District Council Leader Alan Melton, said: "The last thing businesses want is this levy. It will harm the economy and turn away new business from places such as Fenland where we need to encourage it. I cannot see the connection between hitting Fenland companies in this way and reducing congestion on the A14."

Councils have been working hard together to make sure Government takes seriously the issue of improving the A14 and will be submitting their own joint proposals.

The responses to the A14 Challenge will be considered by the Department for Transport.

The Campaign group's submission includes:
Reducing the number of cars using the A14 for local commuting
A workplace parking levy (WPL) implemented across the region (not just in Cambridge City, where it might encourage workplaces to relocate out of town). This would have benefits in encouraging car-sharing and other measures associated with workplace travel plans, and would also help to raise revenue to pay for other measures in this plan

Workplace parking controls

A Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) implemented across the region would have benefits in encouraging car-sharing and other measures associated with workplace travel plans, and would also help to raise revenue to pay for other measures.

A Workplace Parking Levy has been looked at previously by Cambridgeshire County Council and rejected but given the priority within the A14 Challenge to look at new ways of funding transport improvements, it  should be revisited now. This measure would not only raise revenue to support sustainable transport but also complement other measures in the package proposed here, such as the "Smarter Choices workplace travel plans.

Any new levy should apply across the County to cover out-of-town locations, and should not be restricted to Cambridge City which has protected well-connected areas for development around the city edge in its draft Development Strategy, as this might encourage workplaces to locate in business park locations instead, leading to longer commutes and conflicting with the aim of reducing the need to travel.