The current debate about car parking in Matlock (and for the district council the entire Dales area), has reinforced my long held view that the controlling politicians have got it wrong.
Unlike other towns elsewhere in the country, our council seems to regard every car park as equal – whether town or village centre, edge of town or in a rural location – and therefore the same exorbitant charges appear to apply everywhere, except for one notable car park in Ashbourne which remains free (surprise, surprise).
Now the council is seeking planning consent for another, temporary car park on the site of the vacated Lido, and no doubt councillors will be surprised that the county council is objecting on the grounds that it lacks proof of need.
Local residents are well aware of the weekday problems posed by those who work in the town and park all day in residential roads – that is a battle they and Liberal Democrat councillors have been waging for many years.
Mr Winnard is also right to point out the ‘would be’ car park’s convoluted entrance proposed opposite Edgefold Road and other details also appear to have been poorly thought out.
We may also be justified in asking why the council considers it worthwhile spending so much money on another car park, if they are confident that re-development of the Lido site is fairly imminent and why they have not carried out a proper survey of car park occupancy in Matlock.
Such a survey would reveal that the Co-op rooftop car park is rarely full (compared to a few years ago, pre-Sainsbury’s) and that the new station car park on Derwent Way is rarely even half full.
The latter situation is patently obvious, that car park is on the edge of town, used to be free, but since it was opened has been subject to exactly the same charges as everywhere else.
As in other ‘tourist’ towns, this edge-of-town-centre site should be designated ‘long stay’, with a one-off charge of say £2 for a whole day or any part of it, in order to encourage both workers and tourists to park there.
The county council also need a more enlightened attitude to residents only’ parking designations in local streets, following a more comprehensive survey than that carried out a few years ago.
In other towns we have visited recently, local councils appear to have a more enlightened attitude to parking, with a hierarchy of car parks and variable charges, including some town centre sites with a maximum one-hour limit, in conjunction with long stay car parks for visitors as well as ‘residents only’ parking in local streets.
Our local traders suggested refund scheme is admirable, but will need to be well publicised.
I tend to believe that councils have to respond to human behaviour as it is, and not as they would like it to be, and therefore need to have flexible rather than rigid policies on many aspects of their respective responsibilities.