Car park fees ‘a tax on people being ill’

A DECISION to introduce charges at the Westbury Hill car park has been widely condemned by people in Westbury on Trym and wide surrounding area.

Residents say ending free parking will punish people attending the GP surgery, churches and other activities nearby and could “kill” the high street.

Bristol City Council intends to bring in £1-an-hour fees seven days a week at Westbury Hill and nine other district car parks in Bristol, making them all pay and display. 

Dozens of people submitted objections to two council meetings and a further attempt to have the plan dropped was being made at the full council meeting on February 21, after the Voice went to print.

The ruling cabinet made the decision on January 24 to go ahead with the charges. At that meeting, 53 people sent in statements on the Westbury plan alone, with some claiming the plan was discriminatory and others asking for a half-hour free stay and no fees on Sundays. 

The three ward councillors, Geoff Gollop, Sharon Scott and Steve Smith, submitted a statement that said it seemed unreasonable and unfair to forced patients, many of whom were older and unwell, to pay to visit the surgery.

Mayor Marvin Rees said there would be time before the scheme was implemented for discussions with residents about the details.

At a budget scrutiny meeting on February 2, cross-party councillors backed calls for the idea to be scrapped or scaled back.

Conservative group leader and Henbury & Brentry ward Cllr Mark Weston said: 

“This is a disastrous move, it’s not going to work and it’s just going to harm communities. It’s a really bad idea,” he said.

Stoke Bishop ward Tory Cllr John Goulandris said medical patients also needed to park at Waverley Road in Shirehampton, where fees are also being introduced.

He said: “We will be hitting people who are sick.

“The shopping centre in Westbury is under a huge amount of pressure. These parking charges could have a devastating impact on the shops and could kill our suburban shopping centres which are suffering already.”

He said the amount that the council expected to earn from the charges was a “drop in the ocean” totalling just £150,000 a year.

Southmead ward Labour Cllr Brenda Massey said: “I suggest we pause and review the proposals where there is strong public opposition. It’s really important that we listen to and work with the community.”

Cllr Gollop said bank customers from across north Bristol visited Westbury because it was the last remaining place with branches.

He said “The ward has the oldest age profile in the city, residents going to the doctor’s surgery are not usually as well as they would like to be, they have no place to park – we are effectively taxing them for being ill.”

Labour cabinet member for transport Cllr Don Alexander said: “We will retain blue badge parking spaces for free in every car park, including these.

“Underlying this is the fact we have to raise money and if we don’t raise money from this, we will have to find it from somewhere else to keep these car parks maintained.”

The traffic regulation order required for the new charges includes consultation, which he said was the time to discuss the detail.

By Adam Postans, Local Democracy Reporting Service