Warning over town traffic

ONE of Fenland s senior directors has warned councillors against ill-thought proposals which could re-introduce through traffic to Wisbech Market Place and instal pay and display meters for car parking. Fenland District Council does not have the money

ONE of Fenland's senior directors has warned councillors against "ill-thought proposals" which could re-introduce through traffic to Wisbech Market Place and instal pay and display meters for car parking.

Fenland District Council does not have the money to help pay for it, he says in a letter to councillors, without re-directing money from existing functions.

And besides, he said, it would be going against all the evidence which showed the most successful trading areas of modern towns are traffic free.

Gary Garford, director of business and infrastructure, was reacting to the fact that councillors have held talks over the possibility of bringing back through traffic and introducing 28 parking spaces in the central area.

"The district council does not at present operate paid parking. To implement an isolated policy for 28 spaces in Wisbech would not be cost effective or practical," he said. "Introducing charging and parking enforcement is not as simple as people believe and would incur far greater costs than could be recovered from 28 spaces."

Mr Garford told Fenland's 40 councillors that he thought it "appropriate to alert you to my serious concerns relating to these proposals and their potential impact on the district council".

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In the letter - accompanied by a briefing from the council's legal department warning councillors of the consequences of not taking "sound professional advice" from officers - he spelt out his areas of concern.

Mr Garford says as the director "overseeing the council's assets along with car parking/highway related matters and the viability of our town centres", it was vital that any proposals were practical, workable, and enforceable. In his opinion, that rules out the introduction of paid parking, barriers and the appointment of a town ranger to police parking.

Mr Garford's letter was dated April 6, just three days after council leader Councillor Geoff Harper held a meeting in Wisbech with councillors to try to break the deadlock over the future of the Market Place. However, the letter has only just been received by councillors - in advance of a Conservative group meeting, due to have been held on Wednesday.

Mr Garford has given Cllr Harper and his colleagues a detailed list of reasons why Fenland should not be supporting through traffic and pay parking in Wisbech.

He questions where the council's contribution to funding pay parking would come from without redirecting the money from other functions.

And he says staffing costs of between £40-50,000 a year, and with parking around 50p for two hours, would still leave a shortfall of up to £35,000 a year.

Mr Garford says the proposals disregard the strong public support for a pedestrian-only scheme, increases the potential for accidents, and flies in the face of advice from the police who say it would "create a much worse situation than at present".

- In a recent survey by the Wisbech Standard, readers voted overwhelmingly against allowing traffic into the Market Place.

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