QUESTIONS have been raised over whether pensioners are the most in need of concessionary parking permits in Stratford.
Members of Stratford District Council’s Cabinet gave the go-ahead to a proposal to reintroduce the parking permits to over 65s when they met to debate the issue on Monday (July 3).
But not until several councillors expressed feeling “deeply uncomfortable” with the proposal in light of the cost-of-living crisis.
The plan is a proposed u-turn on a decision made in January 2021 to abolish the concessionary over 65s permit. This came as part of a parking shake-up which would also introduce charging in Fisherman’s Car Park, increase the hourly tariffs at Stratford Leisure Centre for coaches, lorries and motorhomes and increase the leisure centre’s overnight charges for all vehicles, both in line with inflation.
The new parking charges are yet to be reinforced but the pensioner concessionary permits were abolished.
Now, however, councillors are being advised to have a rethink and reintroduce the permits – but on a number of conditions. These include an initial cost to pensioners of £50 a year, subject to inflation, and providing a maximum stay of four hours a day between 9am and 5pm, Monday to Sunday.
Officers recommended the Cabinet approved the proposal to reintroduce the concessionary permits as it would encourage more people of state pension age to come into Stratford to interact, as well as providing more affordable access to open spaces and leisure facilities.
Cabinet members agreed unanimously to send out plans to reintroduce the over 65s parking permit to public consultation, which would include consulting residents on what hours they would like to see the permits valid for, as concerns were raised 9am to 5pm could be too limiting.
However, councillors including Coun Sarah Whalley-Hoggins, had graver concerns.
She said she felt “deeply uncomfortable” about this proposal as she questioned whether it was the over 65s who required a concessionary parking scheme. She believed there were others in greater need in the town.
Coun Jenny Fradgley raised the fact that all other market towns in the district had free parking for all ages, all day, every day of the year and this was seen as an “unfairness” among residents she had talked to.
She added that the reintroduction of parking permits for over 65s could be seen as “a little offer towards the town”.
Coun Kate Rolfe said many of her ward members had told her that they shopped in Wellesbourne, Leamington and even Banbury rather than Stratford due to the parking charges.
She continued that the council needed to get people back visiting the town.
Coun Andrew Crump added that economic circumstances had changed greatly over the last two years and this proposal was as a result, out of date.
He said it was more likely families with young children had been hit hardest by the cost of living crisis.
Members of the Cabinet also agreed unanimously to end free parking at Fisherman’s car park and to raise the cost of parking in other town centre car parks in line with inflation from August.
Following a consultation, charges at Fisherman’s car park will only be implemented between the hours of 9am and 6pm seven days a week for the benefit of dog walkers, runners, wild swimmers, paddle boarders, etc.