Free parking will remain in Cheshire towns after council u-turns on unpopular charging rise

There were celebrations at Macclesfield Town Hall this week, after Cheshire East Council’s highways committee rejected plans to bring in new car parking charges.

Plans to introduce parking charges in Middlewich, Alsager, Holmes Chapel, Sandbach and other towns which are currently free in Cheshire East have been scrapped.

Applause and cheers rang out from the public gallery at Macclesfield Town Hall as members of the highways and transport committee voted by eight to five against the proposal to go out to public consultation on the charges.

Speaking after the decision, Middlewich councillor Mike Hunter, who voted against the new charging proposals, said: “It is dead in the water.

“It does present us with problems down the line budget-wise – we have got to find £1 million – but, at the end of the day, as you can tell from the people that were in this hall and the amount of people that were against these parking charges, it’s a victory for residents, not just in Middlewich but in Alsager and Holmes Chapel and other places around Cheshire East, and that’s what matters.

“We’re here about the residents. It’s not party, it’s residents. Town before party.”

Earlier, during the meeting, Cllr Hunter had pointed out that parents used some of the car parks in Middlewich to pick up their children from school.

He said they would not pay to park for the school run.

Wilmslow councillor Don Stockton asked why the council had not done the review on a town by town basis instead of proposing a standardised charge across the borough.

“Standardisation is not the way forward in my mind,” said Cllr Stockton.

He added: “Parking isn’t just about car parking charges, it’s about the vitality of the towns, it’s about the fact that when people try and avoid car parking charges they’ll just go and park on the street outside someone’s house and the residents will get upset.”

He was applauded by the public when he said he couldn’t support what was proposed and that each car park and each town should be considered on its own merit.

At the beginning of the meeting, several members of the public had addressed the committee and some had used a similar argument.

Committee chair Craig Browne told the meeting there was a cost to providing car parks and ‘those who use the service should be the ones who pay for it’.

In towns such as Crewe, Nantwich, Macclesfield, Knutsford and Wilmslow drivers have paid for years to park.

Crewe councillor Hazel Faddes told the committee: “I fully support this consultation.”

But Willaston and Rope councillor Allen Gage said he did not back the consultation as it stood on introducing charges across the borough and voted against it.

He later said he wanted to see the introduction of charges on free car parks in the north of the borough to produce a net reduction on charges for Crewe and Nantwich.

“If they’re going to introduce car parking charges in the north, where there’s a lot of free car parks there, it’s only fair that historical legacies are addressed in the south,” said Cllr Gage.

“We’ve been paying over the odds, so I would like to see the levy in the north help to subsidise the south. That’s only fair.

“We should be even across the board, which would bring the net down because we’re not charging more.”

The recommendations, which had been put forward by the Labour/Independent administration, would have seen all towns and villages pay the same rate on paid-for council-owned car parks.

A zonal charging scheme would have been introduced.

All those proposals have now been scrapped.

Cheshire East Council now faces another headache. It had banked on the extra charges bringing in more than £1 million.

That now won’t happen.

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