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Councillor Notes October 2013

Richard Bird


This month I am talking about traffic issues. In last month’s issue I promised the most democratic review that there could be of the current parking arrangements in Hunstanton.

Before I had become a Norfolk County Councillor, Hunstanton had been put forward as one of the first places to make parking enforcement pay for itself under the Decriminalisation Act (previously the Police were responsible for on street parking enforcement).

All the operatives in the streets of Norfolk are now employed by the Local Authority and not the Police. On-street parking charges are considered by NCC as a legitimate method of raising revenues to pay for the officers who keep the streets clear of illegally parked vehicles, reducing ratepayers responsibilities.

To date the only experience of this exercise in the county has been in Great Yarmouth. There, the local population, I am told, demanded something doing about prioritising residents’ parking options, and some time ago a system of that scheme was initiated. To start with the fee was £25 per annum but then because of a financial loss being incurred by the council it was raised to £40. I am told residents said no to the increase at first, but faced with the alternative of going back to a parking free-for-all, decided to accept the new fee.

To establish what Hunstanton’s residents wanted, a system of voting was adopted where every household and business was asked their opinion. In a second paper, questions about residents’ parking and on-street charges were asked and an outline proposal put forward for review. This system was adopted because of the obvious knock-on effect. If a road was controlled, then adjoining roads may have had to bear the consequences. No voting system is perfect, but that was the system adopted. Whilst there were petitions and demonstrations, it is the vote that counts and in this case, with a 41.8% response, the results were as follows:
1. Would you support pay and display in areas of the town such as Cliff Parade?
Result: Yes 465 (38.6%), No 673 (55.8%), No opinion 68
2. Would you support a residents' permit parking scheme?
Result: Yes 371 (30.8%), No 700 (58%), No opinion 135

I would like to draw a line under this exercise with the assurance that neither the on-street or residents’ parking review will be repeated in Hunstanton within the next five years.

Coasthopper bus services
Back in July, I met with Ben Coulson MD of Norfolk Green and initiator of the Coasthopper service. Ben gave the frankest of situation reports that I have experienced; he explained the progression of the service since its start, the growth of the need for it, the reduction of funding and the introduction of the national free travel policy for pensionable age passengers. He said that Norfolk Green’s funding from NCC had been cut by £50K in 2011, £100K in 2012 and he was fearful of further cuts in the upcoming spending review. Additionally, in 2012 the altered fuel tax was costing the company £35K.

Unfortunately Ben was taken into hospital shortly afterwards effectively delaying negotiations between him and NCC until October. In the meantime, events have been overtaken by the budgetary cuts announcements from NCC that will directly affect the
Coasthopper service by reducing their subsidy by £150,00 over the next two years.

At the moment half a million passengers use the Coasthopper each year. It is already on or over capacity and with the addition of visitors it is difficult to see how the service can be reduced or cut.

The challenge is: national government dictates that all over 60’s can travel anywhere in the UK free of charge and yet NCC has to pay the subsidy to the bus company. Ben told me that he had run the Coasthopper at a loss each year, but believed it was important to provide the service because residents, students and local workers need the bus as part of their everyday lives.

Recently, Operations Manager at Norfolk Green, Richard Pengelly was quoted saying: “There will be no change in the winter 2013 or summer 2014 services, if the weather permits. But after September 2014, I just don’t know.”

My contact details are:
Cllr Richard Bird
Homer House, 21 Austin Street,
Hunstanton PE36 6AN
T: 01485 532565 M: 07860476198
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