Car Park Charge Increases and Clayfield Copse Park and Ride Proposals
On Monday night I attended a meeting of the new majority Labour administration Cabinet. Opposition Councillors do not sit on the Cabinet (there are 9 Labour Councillors) but with prior notice we are allowed to speak. I had given notice that I wished to speak on several items. One of them related to increases in car parking charges in the car parks owned by the Council but managed by NCP. The Labour administration proposed to remove the £1 Sunday and Bank Holiday rate at the Hills Meadow and Kings Meadow car parks and charge the normal rates which will be up to £7. They are also scrapping the Sunday and Bank Holiday rate at the Cattle Market and the free parking on Saturdays between 1pm and 6pm at Hills Meadow.
However, the proposal which most surprised me, and which seemed to have been shoe-horned into the report, was the plan for “micro park and ride” schemes at Palmer Park and Clayfield Copse. The report suggested that NCP would be tasked to set up pay and display machines in the car parks, with an initial 2 hours free but a charge of £4 over 2 hours (Mon to Sat) which would also act as a bus ticket for the existing bus services which pass by both sites.
As a ward Councillor for Peppard ward, in which Clayfield Copse sits, I am very aware of the many local groups and individual residents who use the car park, as well as the poor state of the car park there. I raised concerns to Cabinet that the car park was pot-holed and not fit to take the significant increase in usage which a park and ride scheme would entail. The car park needs immediate repair and longer term a proper metalled surface laid. Also some existing users of the car park would be likely to stay longer than 2 hours and would resent a £4 charge. There is a thriving group of football teams who meet there, a tennis club, and very many local people who walk their dogs and enjoy the neighbouring copse and playing fields.
I also noted that whilst the report specifically stated the charging regime for Palmer Park, it had omitted to detail Clayfield Copse! This clearly unsettled Cllr Tony Page, the Labour Lead Councillor, who had failed to spot this omission when he was sent the draft report, and he began flicking through the pages of the report and muttering to the Leader of the Council. I asked that the matter be deferred and consultation be undertaken with the ward Councillors before any proposal was decided. In response to my speech Cllr Page acknowledged the omission and the need for work to improve the state of the car park. He also agreed to discuss my concerns with Council officers and consult with the ward Councillors.
Since the Cabinet meeting I have had the opportunity to consult with many users of the Clayfield Copse car park and it is clear that there is significant concern at what is proposed. Many people have emailed me and I have already met with reprentatives of Caversham Tennis Club and Caversham AFC who often have to use the car park for much longer than 2 hours if they are having a tournament. Today I visited the car park which was full to overflowing, with cars parked outside on the grassed verge and in nearby residential streets. There may be capacity at certain times but not at the times when a park and ride would be most likely to be used, namely at weekends.
My Conservative ward colleague Cllr Jane Stanford-Beale and I will be making strong representations to the Council urging the Labour administration to think again and quickly. The micro park and ride proposal as presented on Monday evening is simply not workable.