About 150 people took to the streets of Sandbach on Saturday to protest against proposals which could see parking charges introduced in the town.
One Sandbach resident, who joined the protest, told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) the council would be going against its own town centre vitality plan if it went ahead with any plans to introduce charging.
The Sandbach vitality plan states: “Understand need to review charges but “harmonisation” across the borough will discourage people from visiting Sandbach and risk displacement of parking onto many surrounding residential streets, as happened when Sandbach Station started charging £3 per day.”
The protester told the LDRS: “The high streets in places that have charges already, for example Nantwich, Congleton, Macclesfield and Crewe, are all suffering because of parking charges. I don’t believe that parking charges should be implemented anywhere.
“A lot of the small independent shops have now gone from the high street and, at the same time, the council has allowed retail parks to continue to grow, where parking is absolutely free.”
Cheshire East Council is currently consulting on proposals to introduce charges in ‘free-parking’ towns and to revise charges – mainly upwards – in those which already pay.
Sandbach has always had free parking and the council is considering imposing charges on six of its car parks.
A former Sandbach trader, who had to close her shop earlier this year because of soaring energy bills, is now a member of the Facebook page, Action Against Cheshire East Parking Charges – Sandbach.
She told the LDRS: “I understand the challenges that our small high street businesses are facing, which is why I am so passionate about this campaign.
“Many businesses are still trying to recover post-pandemic, they were then hit by the energy crisis, then the cost of living crisis, increasing taxes and rising minimum wages. It seems ludicrous that in such a small market town, with so many small independent businesses, Cheshire East Council then wants to add to their challenges by introducing parking charges and time restrictions.”
She added: “The impact on the high street is only one concern, what about those who work in town who will have to pay almost £500 per year to park, the volunteers who work in our many charity shops who will have to pay to park, not to mention the town centre residents who are unclear about the proposals for residents parking.
“Many of the local people feel that this is already a done deal but I would urge anyone who is not in agreement to the charges to send in their email [to the council consultation] outlining their reasons for objecting.”
Parking charges have been a thorn in the side of every Cheshire East administration since the council was formed in 2009.
Most towns in the former Crewe & Nantwich borough and the former Macclesfield borough have paid to park for years, whereas most towns in the former Congleton borough, such as Sandbach, Middlewich and Alsager, have never paid.
In a statement released when Cheshire East launched the parking charges consultation, deputy leader Craig Browne (Ind) said: “The inherited legacy where some residents pay to park and others do not has caused a sense of unfairness.
“The council is proposing to address this imbalance – taking into account each town’s characteristics – while also responding to the higher costs of maintaining our car parks, which require regular resurfacing, improved lighting and markings and the installation of EV charging points.”
The parking consultation runs until November 1 and the proposals can be viewed here https://www.cheshireeast.gov.uk/parking_consultation
Representations to the proposals must be emailed to: firstname.lastname@example.org