DISTRICT bosses have agreed to scrap the over-65s parking permit in Stratford.
Stratford District Council’s Cabinet also agreed other proposed changes this week, including a charge at the currently free Fisherman’s car park, increased motorhome charges at Stratford Leisure Centre coach and lorry park and to introduce two hours maximum stays in The Greig Leisure Centre and Shipston Leisure Centre car parks.
In February, the district council carried out two public consultation exercises – one for the concessionary permit holders only and one for the general public on the other changes.
The consultation revealed nearly 70 per cent of respondents said they rarely used the Fisherman’s car park, and nearly half of users of the leisure centre car parks said they stayed three hours or more, and over half for non-leisure centre activities. Nearly all respondents stated that they would not park overnight if a £20 charge was introduced at the coach and lorry park.
The consultation also decided between scrapping the £10 concessionary permits or introducing an £150 yearly fee. The move comes after much deliberation since an outcry over initial plans to remove the permits prompted the council to instead increase the permit cost to £25. But, in a second U-turn, the authority has returned to its original plans after it claimed it is facing a £4million budget deficit.
Just over half of the respondents – around 65 per cent of permit holders – were in favour of ditching the permits altogether. Nearly 40 per cent indicated that they had a long-standing illness, disability or infirmity and, as such, would possibly qualify for a blue badge to allow free parking.
Stratford district councillor Ian Shenton said: “This has been an extensive and comprehensive consultation process and has allowed residents and interested parties the chance to shape the final recommendations. The survey included a free text/comments box that allowed for any further thoughts and comments to be made which were then analysed with the survey into themes.
“It is clear that the final recommendations take account of the survey and the comments and whilst no survey is perfect, and the results and conclusions drawn will not please everyone, I am, nevertheless, content that the recommendations and the subsequent approval by the Cabinet is fair and equitable.
“In particular, the decision benefits the users of the leisure centres, whilst motorhome visitors to Stratford generally agreed that a fair charge would be £10 for an overnight stay and I hope that we will continue to see more visitors. Being able to charge for using the Fisherman’s car park is a consistent approach to parking is Stratford generally.
“The over-65 permits have been reducing in popularity over the last two years having fallen by approximately 40 per cent and, based on the survey, would continue to fall if we increased the charge to a level that would have been consistent with the very few authorities that even offered such permit of this type.
“My view is that removing the permit, now, is the right course of action to take due to a number of factors, but principally because it is fairer and more equitable to approximately 99 per cent of residents who either do not qualify for this permit or who have chosen not to buy it.
“As I said earlier, this decision will not please everyone and that is regrettable but we have to make decisions based on what is fair to the majority of residents and it is clear from social media and the survey itself that this is the right decision.”