Posts Tagged ‘Eric Pickles’

Answering Parliamentary Questions (PQs) in the House of Commons yesterday (October 21st), Mr Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, had to deal with a brief flurry of questions relating to local authorities’ parking policies. The exchanges led to a short news story in The Daily Telegraph the following day. Here is the Hansard record of what he was asked and what he answered:

“Mr David Crausby (Bolton North East) (Lab): Everyone in Bolton is working hard, despite difficult circumstances, to revitalise our town centre, but one of our biggest problems is expensive car parking. While the council is doing its bit to help, what can the Secretary of State do to encourage local authorities to deliver free car parking schemes, so that town centres can compete with out-of-town shopping?

Mr Pickles: What an excellent question. I agree entirely that local authorities have a responsibility. When my own local authority introduced half an hour free parking throughout the borough, it made an enormous difference. Expensive parking is cutting off the nose to spite the face. The more people come into a town centre, the more profitable it becomes and the better it is and the more people feel it is like home.

Bob Blackman (Harrow East) (Con): I congratulate my right hon. Friend on his initiatives to ease the cost of parking on our high streets. Does he agree that one of the simplest ways for local authorities to operate is to offer 30 minutes of free parking on roads outside shops, as that will revitalise our neighbourhood centres?

Mr Pickles: My hon. Friend will recall that under the previous Government, councils were urged to put up car parking charges and to make it difficult for people to bring cars into town centres. As I said earlier, I know from personal experience that the policy he suggests makes a difference. If we are to protect our town centres, particularly our smaller shops, this is exactly the kind of measure that needs to be introduced, and those councils that do not do so are failing in their duty.

Karl Turner (Kingston upon Hull East) (Lab): The Secretary of State likes to talk the talk when it comes to parking charges, so will he explain why three of the highest-charging councils are Tory controlled?

Mr Pickles: By which I think the hon. Gentleman means the amount of money they receive. I suspect that under any system, no matter who ran it, Westminster might get rather a lot of car parking.”

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Eric Pickles really is in the wrong job. Or, more correctly, in, the wrong Government department.

With all of the ministers in the Department for Transport seemingly under orders to talk about nothing other than HS2 at the moment, the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has seized the moment to speak up for the British motorist.

“New planning guidance to be published this week will push for more town centre parking spaces and tackle the blight of… aggressive ‘anti-car’ traffic calming measures like road humps,” a new press release from the DCLG says. “The new practice guidance, covering design, town centres and travel plans, will state that councils should understand the important role appropriate parking facilities can play in rejuvenating shops, high streets and town centres. It also sets out how town hall planning rules should not be used to tax drivers or justify development of crude traffic calming measures, such as poorly-sited bollards and road humps.

“Today’s announcement is also part of a wider government initiative to support parking and local shoppers,” the DCLG adds. “Ministers will be making more announcements on parking in due course.”

Mr Pickles said “Draconian town hall parking policies and street clutter can make driving into town centres unnecessarily stressful and actually create more congestion because of lack of places to park. Anti-car measures are driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out of town superstores.”

The DCLG’s press release about its new planning guidance has already drawn an angry response from the Local Government Association. “Councils work hard to try and boost trade and keep High Streets vibrant through parking incentives such as free short-stay, cheaper evenings and free Sundays,” an LGA spokesman said.

The Department for Communities and Local Government guidance itself will be published shortly.

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