Petitions against the proposal, signed by over 3,000 islanders, were presented to the meeting and several councillors argued effectively against the changes, citing the effect parking charges have on local businesses - especially in our struggling town centres. The full Daily Post report on the meeting is here.
As a result of this backlash there will now be a complete review of the council's car parks policy in the New Year. I hope that the Executive will now take this opportunity to consider how it can adjust parking charges on all its sites so as to support local, town centre shops and businesses by making visiting them less inconvenient for potential shoppers. Shops in Holyhead and Llangefni in particular have suffered for many years due to:
- the reduction of street-side parking places;
- the inconvenience of having to pay to park in town centre car parks even for short periods; and
- the fact that supermarket car parks are large and free.
Indeed, to illustrate this point, just last year, Holyhead attracted considerable attention in the Daily Telegraph, the Mirror, the BBC, and other national media for having the most empty town centre shops in the United Kingdom. As pointed out above there are many reasons for this, but the Council has in its power one important lever: the ability to adjust car parking charges to make visiting Anglesey's town centres hasslefree.
Accordingly I would urge the Council to use the opportunity of a full review to adjust parking charges such that the first half- or full-hour was free (or just a nominal charge of 10p as in other places in North Wales). This would make visiting town centre businesses a far less troublesome experience for car users, would undoubtedly provide a boost for local shops, and would also demonstrate to Anglesey's small businesses that it is not "some kind of massive monster that just wants to fleece them" (in the words of Cllr Ken Hughes of Llanfaethlu) but a forward thinking and business-friendly organisation.
In other non-Parking news, Thursday's Full Council meeting also unanimously voted in favour of Carl Sargeant's
"We have just heard of the need to collaborate with other Authorities, let us start by collaborating here in this Chamber today. Let us make history today in this Chamber, let us put Anglesey in the Media with good news ... Let all 40 Members collaborate, let's form an Alliance of 40 Members to move this Council in the direction that the electorate of Anglesey expects and deserves of us."