Anonymised Response to a Letter of Complaint from a Resident on the New Parking Proposals

I hope this will assuage some concerns and make my position clear on the future of the proposals:

Dear

Thanks for your message.  I hope that this response will reassure you both about the parking proposals and the process.  Feel free to share it with other residents.

To address your last point first (quotation removed) I would hardly have announced on the Planet Saltburn and Saltburn News pages the forthcoming consultation period a week before it goes in the Gazette if I wanted to do that (do a quiet consultation to minimise responses), nor would we have talked informally to businesses and residents about parking issues in Saltburn over a long period.  The Council Cabinet also decided to postpone the Consultation until after the Christmas period (though it was supposed to be ready earlier) so that it would hopefully get more attention from residents than if it began in December.  We would like to see as many responses from residents within the consultation period as possible, which need to go to Emma.Garbutt@redcar-cleveland.gov.ukby February 4th.

I should also say – though it’s a shame I need to – that this is a real consultation, not just an exercise.  Without dwelling too much on the past, it is perhaps worth saying that politically the Council is run very differently now.  We are a minority administration which tries to work as closely as possible with other parties and with independent councillors.  One of our first decisions in 2015 was to refrain from standing our own Labour councillors for the chairs of our Scrutiny and Improvement Committees, so that the opposition groups could scrutinise our actions as effectively as possible.  Unlike our predecessors, we do not have a record of imposing deeply unpopular decisions on our communities.  There is also no charging in this plan.

Over the years, all three ward councillors have received many complaints about congestion and dangerous parking in Saltburn.  Individual issues have included the bottleneck at Marine Parade West, the long term storage of camper vans blocking the views of residents on Marine Parade (including by non-residents), big coaches on Marine Parade all day, commuters parking in front of businesses all day in the town centre, long queues, dropped-kerbs blocked, disabled access to vehicles, very dangerous parking between Cat Nab Car Park and Clifton, parking that blocks the pavement, to name but a few.  The congestion issue was also very much in evidence this week, with very long queues on New Year’s Day, so what will it be like in season?

I’m sure you will appreciate that it is difficult as an elected representative to say to residents that the best response to their concerns is to do nothing.  Doing nothing of course remains an option, but we have worked with officers to produce a hopefully reasonable plan which tries to balance the needs of residents, businesses and visitors.  As you know we are now a thriving town, with independent shops, restaurants, bars and events that Saltburn didn’t have in the past.  But there is no guarantee that we will remain a thriving town.  Seaside towns around the country tend to be either thriving or declining, with not much in between.  As the mainstream retail sector declines, our independent successes will become ever more important to the town.  We are an increasingly popular place to live – among the best in the country according to the Sunday Times – and also have literally millions of visitors to Saltburn every year now.  Is it then possible to have such a success, and have mainly uncontrolled, laissez-faire parking in which the number of cars increase every year?  I don’t know of any towns that have both, but would be interested to hear either officially or informally about any that have pulled it off.

So we would prefer it if residents use the consultation period to improve the plan, though if the response to these proposals is overwhelmingly negative we will of course have to go back to the drawing board.

You also say we must have more important issues on our agendas.  Certainly there are very important issues affecting the borough as a whole.  As the Cabinet Member for Children and Families I spend most days helping the staff in Children’s Social Care wrestle with the social effects of Austerity, and the ways it combines with increasing domestic violence, substance abuse and mental illness to produce a much higher number of children in our care, and much less money from Government to help vulnerable families.  There is now a crisis in children’s care, which affects many parts of the country as well as us.

Saltburn is not immune to these issues, but is less affected than some other wards.  On a personal level, every time I come back to Saltburn from my meetings I’m aware of the difference. One day in 2015 I came back from an Adoption Panel in which we had matched a baby, who had been appallingly treated by his parents and was fortunate to have survived, with a new family, and was then stopped by a Saltburn resident who complained that his neighbour was parking too close to his hedge.  It can be hard to adjust sometimes, but since I was elected in Saltburn, my duty is to be a ward councillor as well, which means taking on issues important to residents in our town, along with those which affect the borough as a whole.

All three ward councillors have worked hard on the proposals, including walking around every street affected to analyse its consequences, but none of us would declare the results to be perfect or incontrovertible.  We would only ask that residents consider the larger picture I have tried to outline here before putting in their response.

Finally, is also clear to us that the plan will only succeed if we can increase the number of parking places in Saltburn.  This must also be part of the larger picture.  We are working with officers to develop Hob Hill car park into a Park and Ride, and had a site meeting there this morning.  It is perhaps not the ideal location, and its success depends upon more frequent bus services which the company will only provide if there is demand, so it is something of a chicken and egg situation.  But progress continues slowly and we are confident it will be an important part of the parking strategy in the longer term.  The proposals include removing parking restrictions in some locations to create extra capacity, and we also want to have more herring-bone parking along Marine Parade, though our budget will not stretch to this at the moment, so it is not part of the present plan.

I hope this goes some way to answer your concerns.  Please feel free to ask any further questions.

Best regards

Cllr Craig Hannaway

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