ROLLING out a controversial new on-street parking system, recently introduced in Ashton, across the borough would kill towns like Stalybridge.
That is the view of Cllr Doreen Dickinson, who represents Stalybridge South, the lone dissenting voice when the proposal was approved at a Tameside Council strategic planning and capital monitoring panel meeting.
Parts of the town centre, including Stamford Street Central, now require motorists to use a mobile phone app.
Though on-street parking is free for the first 30 minutes, this must be logged with the app to prevent drivers from being sent a fine.
Business owners claimed it would kill the town centre by reducing footfall, something Cllr Dickinson believes has happened.
“Shopkeepers are up in arms and some estimate they have lost between 50 and 70 per cent of trade,” she explained.
That was reinforced by one shopkeeper, who did not want to be identified.
“The streets were deserted on Saturday and people were simply driving away. It has definitely caused problems,” she said.
Cllr Dickinson said: “You only have to look at the age of shoppers in Ashton – most are aged over 50 – to know it would go down like a lead balloon.
“When it was passed, I could see it would cause mayhem, and I have been proved right.
“To people in the offices who devised it, it looked a brilliant idea, but they were not in the real world.
“Many older people don’t have smartphones and many of those who do and understand apps don’t trust putting their bank details on their phones.”
Cllr Dickinson added Tameside Council has been rescinding fines because of problems that have arisen already.
And she pointed out there was a 30p charge, even though parking was supposed to be free.
She continued: “This only affects on-street parking and you can still pay as normal on car parks.
“Many of those who used to park for 10 minutes to bob into a shop now have to go to a car park that is full because so many can’t park on the street.”
The on-street bays, that make up an estimated seven per cent of Ashton’s parking provision, are reported to be largely unused during the day.
Cllr Dickinson believes the new system will deter shoppers from using Ashton, though that may benefit other towns like Stalybridge, which itself has issues with a lack of parking.
She continued: “The new on-street parking system will definitely deter shoppers from Ashton.
“I am sure many will head to Crown Point North where they can park and hopefully places like Stalybridge will also benefit.
“My worry is that Tameside Council will view it as a trial and eventually roll it out everywhere. That would finish Stalybridge, which needs free car parking.”
The plan to introduce payment by a phone app came before a Tameside Council speakers’ planning panel in June 2016 when it was defeated.
In April 2017, notices appeared on lampposts around the town saying the same plans were to be discussed again.
And when they came before a strategic planning and monitoring panel in October 2017, it was passed 4-1 with Cllr Dickinson the only objector.