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11 March 2013, 12:10 | Updated: 11 March 2013, 12:33
East Cambridgeshire District Council has scrapped plans to introduce car parking charges in Ely.
It is free to park in all but one of the city's car parks, but there had been plans to begin charging for the use of them.
This was because East Cambridgeshire District Council said it costs around £300,000 a year to run free car parks; money which the council claims would be better spent elsewhere.
A petition set up by the Ely Traders Association against initial plans to charge for parking was signed by around 12,000 people.
These initial plans were dropped and revised by the council, before updated proposals including a free first hour's parking were introduced.
These proposals continued to be opposed by The Ely Traders Association, with their argument being that bringing in parking charges would drive people elsewhere, to larger shopping areas like Cambridge, and also to out-of-town retail parks with free parking.
The Traders Association believed that this would have had a negative impact on Ely, and damage trade in the city.
Today (Monday), a joint statement [below] has been released by Councillor Peter Moakes from East Cambridgeshire District Council and Councillor Will Burton at City of Ely Council, announcing the council has 'decided not to progress with the implementation of car parking charges in Ely.'
Spokesperson for the Ely Traders Association, Andrew Olley, said: "It is an extraordinary feeling; I am absolutely delighted for the town centre.
For a long time we have been saying plans to introduce car parking charges in the town centre were wrong.
For our council to listen to us - it is fantastic for local businesses and people who work in the town."
This is the statement from Cllr Peter Moakes from East Cambridgeshire District Council and Cllr Will Burton at City of Ely Council:
"Last year, the District and City Council jointly proposed a new car parking scheme for Ely which we believed was a fair and straight forward plan. It was designed to give users of our car parks a free first hour of parking followed by very low hourly rates with a heavily reduced ticket for those looking to park over a week.
These plans were put out to consultation to give residents, workers and visitors to Ely the chance to have their say on our ideas.
Our aim throughout this process was to be open, honest and transparent.
While some derided the questions we asked, we saw the process as an extremely important part of the process.
Reading the feedback we have received and listening carefully to the responses we have had, it is clear the introduction of car parking charges in Ely has become more contentious than ever before.
It has become an issue which is diverting all of us from our main focus of delivering quality services for our residents.
For this reason, we have decided not to progress with the implementation of car parking charges in Ely.
We feel, due to a culmination of factors, now is simply the wrong time to introduce a scheme.
As Ely grows there will no doubt be further challenges to city’s infrastructure as our population and traffic increase but throughout the remaining term of this administration, we will not consider the introduction of off street car parking charges as a solution.
It should be noted the aim of our scheme was to control the demand for parking spaces in Ely.
With the end of our proposals, the issues of managing a high demand for a limited number of spaces still remain and money which could have been invested in city centre initiatives from any surplus will no longer be possible.
Clearly this decision will also have an impact on the District Council’s budget, which we will need to address over the forthcoming months to ensure we can deliver a balanced budget.
Our focus, as always, will be on helping to deliver growth and employment in the local economy as well as providing the best services for our residents.
It is the time to work together with businesses, communities and our partners to drive forward with projects which will have a lasting positive legacy for Ely and tackling the challenges which bring us success."