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JIM PARKER: Take stress out of parking in town

By Herald Express  |  Posted: December 27, 2012

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YOU always hear about people having to dash back to their car to make sure there isn't a parking ticket waiting for them on the windscreen. But you never realise exactly how unpleasant it really is until it happens to you.

I was attending a meeting on Torquay harbour side the other day and decided to park in the Town Hall car park at the top of the town and walk down through the main street.

Three hours on the ticket would be ample, I thought to myself. But as the meeting progressed I found myself checking my watch every few minutes. In the end, I had to leave the meeting early and scarper back up the town. My ticket was a couple of minutes out but, fortunately for me, I had escaped the dreaded fine.

You may ask why I didn't use the Fleet Walk car park which is pay on exit. I wish I had.

How many other local shoppers, business people and visitors are faced with the same clock-watching nightmare? Loads, every day of the week, I suspect.

I note that one of our seaside resort counterparts on the French Riviera is coming up with ways of trying to boost trade, attract and keep punters in the town. Nice City Council have had a scheme running where the first hour's parking is free in its 11 town centre car parks. The down side is that charges after the first hour have been increased and anybody staying for longer than 60 minutes has to pay for that period as well.

But it has gone down well with shoppers and traders. So much so that the scheme has been extended the end of 2014.

Leading Paignton trader Matthew Clarke says of the Nice idea: "I am more than happy to listen and monitor it — Crossways has a similar scheme where the first half hour parking is free."

But he says: "The whole issue about experiments is that the council is not happy to experiment because they would lose revenue."

He says that at several meetings he has suggested turning parking meters in the town on at 10am rather than 8am and, if that went down well, then shutting down at 4pm. "It may be asking too much. They (the council) say it would lose them £30,000 in Paignton."

But he has a further plan up his sleeve to recoup that loss in revenue. His answer would be to allow parking on the seafront Esplanade during some of the summer months when it is currently a no-go area for cars.

"They (the council) say that would affect the Blue Flag but I say they have no evidence for that," says Matthew. "The Esplanade is closed between the May and September. Nobody knows that (Blue Flag) season exits. It is just a six week season. It (the Esplanade) should be open all year round except from the middle of July to the end of August."

Surely, any idea has to be worth looking at. Parking is a put-off in our town centres. A long-awaited parking review due out in the New Year has to come up with some answers.

I, for one, will be using Fleet Walk the next time I am in town — or getting a lift.

WHAT a surprise. No sooner has the flame from the Olympic Torch gone out than some sports have seen their funding slashed. UK Sport has stirred up a right old rumpus.

Cycling, boxing, athletics, canoeing, diving, equestrian, fencing, gymnastics, rowing, sailing, shooting and taekwondo have all come out well on the back of their London 2012 successes.

But swimming saw its funding cut by almost 15 per cent. Basketball, which was given £8.5million ahead of the Olympics, has ended up with nothing. Volleyball, handball, table tennis and wrestling have also been hit.

Liz Nicholl, chief executive of UK Sport, has been quoted as saying that the 'no-compromise approach' is designed at making Britain 'the first nation in recent history to be more successful in the Olympics and Paralympics post-hosting'.

In other words she wants us to win even more medals at Rio and sports who are better prepared to achieve that goal are those who will get the most support.

Torbay Sports Council chairman Roger Mann says there is good and bad news in the latest funding announcement.

He says: "Whilst there are both winners and losers in the Sport England funding decisions for the period between 2013 and 2017, it is true to say that ultimate success in terms of medals has been rewarded.

"Often this has been achieved by raising the amounts available to the 'talented' sports person, rather than to the 'participating' one, to use Sport England phraseology.

"Personally, I would not argue against this approach which will certainly concentrate minds over the coming four years.

"Money is tight and we need to see that it is wisely spent.

"However, it is sad to see that the overall funding for sports like cricket, rugby and tennis has been reduced, especially at a moment that has seen England beat the All Blacks at rugby, the England cricket team win in India for the first time for 28 years, and Andy Murray enjoy his best ever year.

"We must be grateful that the overall funding for sport will rise during 2013 and 2017 against the previous four years. He added: "Good news too that a lot of the minority sports will be better funded at a time when more and more people are becoming active into old age."

Roger is hoping that the funding is aimed at the high end of sport. He hopes grass root sport will not be too badly hit.

Let's hope he has read it right. Otherwise London 2012 would have been nothing more than one, hugely expensive and massive PR exercise.

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