“We have had a good discussion”. Those were the concluding remarks of the chair of Shropshire Council’s Place Overview Committee this morning. And with that, the scrutiny committee voted not to intervene in a parking policy that is set to damage our town. This means we will have the highest parking charges in the county outside Shrewsbury. And they will apply on-street in the town centre until 8pm. In all other market towns, charging will end at 6pm. These charges are being introduced, we were told, with the support of Ludlow residents.
Last month, Shropshire Council announced changes to parking charges across the county, including Ludlow. (See my earlier blog for the details.) Charges in the town centre will increase while charges for parking around the centre will generally fall. Time limits on parking will be abolished on the streets and in the car parks. This move, and the high charges on town centre streets, will damage local trade, as will reduction of free pop and shop parking to just five minutes.
Late last month, Shropshire Council concluded its controversial deal to purchase three Shrewsbury shopping centres from an offshore trust. The price was £51 million. The Shropshire Star called the deal “an extraordinary and historic purchase” and described the council as “brave”. Bravery is one thing but I suspect this purchase to be unwise. If I had £51 million in my pocket, I wouldn’t invest it in shopping centres. I’d use the money to improve the social fabric of our county by building council housing.
Parking is among the most divisive issues in our county. Residents want restrictions and priority. Traders want flexibility. Shoppers and visitors want to park easily. Everyone wants the lowest charges, except Shropshire Council which needs to raise revenue to fund its highways work. Resolving the conflicting viewpoints means that there is good news in the council’s new parking strategy but also some bad news. Some parts of the policy don’t work for Ludlow at all.
Controversy is never far away in Ludlow. Men dressed as nurses, oak trees being felled, shop closures, business rate hikes and threats to Ludlow Maternity Unit were just a few of the controversies that engaged our town. It was a year of decent heat and the Millennium Green turned into a lido. Later it turned bitterly cold and snowed, creating a toboggan run on Gallows Bank but also lethal ice on the pavements.
This year I managed to write 200 posts for my blog and send 26 email newsletters. There were more than 95,000 page views of my blog posts on andybodders.co.uk. Many more people read the summaries posted on Facebook.
I am hoping for a quieter 2018 – but I am not expecting it.