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Reducing car parking spaces in Cambridge could ‘impact city’s poorest’

Reducing car parking in the city centre could have a knock-on effect that impacts the poorest people in our community, a councillor has warned.

Parking in Cambridge could be reduced to encourage more people to use active travel
Parking in Cambridge could be reduced to encourage more people to use active travel

Meanwhile, another councillor has suggested that the “whole of Cambridge could be one residential parking zone” in the future, with parking for the city moved further out.

The comments came during a debate about a new city-wide parking strategy, which is being designed by the Greater Cambridge Partnership, along with proposals for an expanded set of residential parking areas.

Labour’s Cllr Simon Smith told a meeting of the GCP’s joint assembly that the transport body must consider the “very, very serious” financial impact that removing parking spaces would have on the city council, which he said pre-pandemic was receiving up to £12m annually in fees.

This financial impact would also come against a backdrop of ever-increasing government funding cuts and would likely lead to a reduction in services if the gap was not plugged.

“We’re looking at an enormous amount of investment to replace these revenue streams,” he said. “I don’t think that’s actually possible. The financial impact on the city council of this strategy that does or will get rid of all these car parking spaces is very, very serious.”

Cllr Smith, who represents the city council on the assembly, continued: “We have to consider on one hand the undoubted benefits that we get from taking cars out of the city with the impact that it is going to have on service delivery and how regressive that might be for the poorest people in our community.”

The GCP’s vision for parking aims to encourage more people to switch to active travel and buses for journeys as part of the wider City Access programme to reduce congestion, noise and air pollution.

It follows the launch of consultation over plans to overhaul the city’s road network, closing some local routes to through traffic.

The GCP had previously agreed to develop the parking strategy with Cambridge City Council and Cambridgeshire County Council.

It aims to bolster use of buses, bikes and walking, slashing carbon emissions as it does so, while considering how on and off-street parking could be better managed to reduce congestion and promote more sustainable modes of transport.

Work to introduce new residents’ parking schemes in Cambridge was agreed in November 2021 by the county council’s highways and transport committee, with the GCP due to take on the work.

An initial list of schemes has been drawn up for six areas of the city: Romsey West, Elizabeth, Romsey East, York, Hurst Park and Wilberforce.

Labour city councillor and deputy chair of the joint assembly, Cllr Katie Thornburrow, said: “I think we need bigger zones for parking so that if you have a resident of one area you’re not limited to that space. You know, maybe the whole of Cambridge could be one residential parking zone.”

She added that the GCP should be “much more ambitious” about its plans to reduce car use in the city, which is currently a 25 per cent decrease.

“We need to support the urban and the rural areas where it’s much more difficult to reduce car ownership, but we need to be more ambitious in the city.”

Issues were also raised by members of the public and councillors about enforcement of parking restrictions in the city, and the problem of pavement parking.

Isobel Wade, the GCP’s assistant director for sustainable and inclusive growth, said of the vision and objectives for the strategy: “This focus is on rebalancing parking provision across the city to encourage people to use sustainable modes of transport for all or part of their journey.

“And this would include supporting walking, cycling and public transport use as people’s preferred choice for most short trips and many longer ones, shifting demand for car parking away from the city centre to be served by an expanded network of travel hubs, with car parking provision in the centre focused on specific needs. For example, blue badge holders, creating more pleasant spaces in our city and on our streets.”

The GCP’s feedback on the strategy and the proposed residents’ parking schemes will be given to the executive board for decision later this month.

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