Friday, November 17, 2006

One-and-a-Half Cheers for the LibDems??

Dunno who the LibDem spokesman in today's Echo was, but it would appear that at least on some transport matters, a consensus is emerging.

Like Labour, the LibDems agree that car parking charges are necessary, whilst they should be structured to encourage people to browse in town centre shops. For that reason the Labour Council recently introduced its "third hour free" strategy in short stay car parks. We are also promoting "pay on exit" car parking in new developments. It would seem that LibDems also support our Park and Ride approach, although we may differ on details.

Of course, there should be a health warning to go with the LibDem announcement. They're sticking with their "revamped" bus station idea, when spending any money here would create a white elephant for Council Tax payers as the bus companies have made it clear they won't use it. And where would the money come for a a complete Park and Ride network? We have set aside £1 million for a single Park & Ride scheme in our Local Transport Plan which will run over the next 4 years. A complete network from scratch would break the bank.

The party who are seriously out of step, however, are the Conservatives. Their free car parking policy would cause massive congestion throughout the day without generating any extra trade for the town. They have consistently rubbished the Council's attempts to promote greener alternative forms of transport in the town. They recently were sceptical about Labour's Park and Ride initiative.

Nationally, the Tories are pretending that they believe in a green future for the country. At grassroots level however, it's clear they are as old-fashioned as ever. It's a case of say one thing, but do another.

For voters in next May's elections who are concerned about the environment and the legacy for our children the message is clear - Darlington Conservatives have nothing to offer you.


Mike Barker said...

Perhaps the Echo thought my name had appeared often enough recently, so this time I became the 'spokesman'.
Regarding your comments about the Bus Station: apart from the blandness of the Pedestrian Heart, I think the thing most people will be disappointed about is the number of gas-guzzling, oil-spilling, exhaust-emitting, noisy buses that will still be churning around the town centre.
It simply isn't good enough to say that Arriva refuse to use the bus station. Who runs this town...a bus company??? The problem is, you had to promise them the run of the town centre, because you needed the bus station for Tesco to build on. Now you don't need the land for Tesco, why not include a renovated bus station in that area?
If cars can be banned from Priestgate/ Northgate /Low Row, I see no reason why the noisy, noxious buses operated by Arriva can't be banned too.
We do, however, agree about the Conservative motor mouths (a particularly apt description in this case) whose attempt at a populist policy (free car parking) is ill-thought out (if indeed they thought about it at all) and will not achieve the results they claim.
The Tories are now circulating letters to businesses in the town centre attempting to organise meetings of town centre traders to get behind their 'private car is king/free parking' policies, claiming to "already have influence" and that they will have "even more when they win control of the Council next May". Frankly, the traders just want to get back to running their businesses and have no intention of being used by Mr Hinton-Clifton and his gang to help him promote his party. The Tesco campaign was successful partly because it was non-party political. The Tories (with the honourable exception of Jim Ruck) sat on the fence over Tesco, but are now attemting to piggy-back on the "Say No..." campaign's success by presenting themselves as the friends of the town centre traders. Well, we traders are not as malleable as the Tories seem to think!

Darlington Councillor said...

Good to have you back Mike.

You're all wromg on buses, a bus station and Tesco. I think it was in the mid-90's that the bus and coach companies chose to pull out of the bus station. Were the Council to renovate or re-build the bus station now, not a single bus would use it because the companies themselves have said they won't, and the Council can't force them to do otherwise.

When the Pedestrian Heart scheme was first considered, there was no "Priestgate/Prebend Row/Tubwell Row loop" - the area between Blackwellgate and Northgate would have been completely pedestrianised. The Council however listened to representations from the bus companies, who said that this would significantly reduce bus ridership into town, and so we changed the scheme - an example of consultation in action.

There is then no "Tesco" angle to this story - if the bus companies won't use the bus station, I'm afraid there's nothing we can do about it.

By the way, do you really want buses banned from the remaining part of Northgate, Priestgate and Low Row/Prebend Row? Believe me, that's a dramatic policy.

I completely agree with you however, regarding the Tories' amatuerish attempt to mobilise businesses in the area against the Labour Council. I've seen the Tories' letter, and I was surprised that Alan Coultas is being touted as a member of the "Say No to Tesco" campaign and not as one of the Tory candidates for Hummersknott (which was exclusively revealed on this blog recently). I think that's using a genuinely non-political campaign for narrow political advantage - disappointing stuff, and I hope Alan isn't part of this shoddy deception.

As for the amount of influence that Mr Hinton-Clifton has... well I had to laugh. Like you, I don't think town centre businesses are as suggestible as the Tories seem to think.

Mike Barker said...

Our plans are for low or zero emission environmentally friendly buses servicing the town centre shops. Bus companies will have to accept their environmental responsibilities sooner rather than later.
The businesses on Priestgate object to the noise and pollution caused by buses using their street as a bus station. On one of your photographic forays into the town centre you will have seen the long queues of buses than can build up in that street, all with their engines running.
This is unacceptable and requires some sort of environmental action and enforcement by the Council, in the interests of the health of people who work in that street.
So, no, we don't want buses banned from the town centre - we do, however, want those buses to be environmentally acceptable.