Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

Over 3,000 people have signed a petition against car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton but what happens next?

                                                            

Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 1 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 2 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3
Fort Perch Rock car park 29th June 2015 Photo 3 of 3

Above are three photos of Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton taken on the 29th June 2015. Over the busier summer holidays this car park will be full.

Future Council Wirral logo
Future Council Wirral logo

As part of the Future Council consultation last year Wirral Council consulted the public on £2.5 million of budget cuts. In the end only £2.4 million of cuts were agreed because of savings that resulted from the extended Biffa contract.

One of the budget options as part of the Future Council consultation was to introduce car parking charges at the Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton. Councillors were told that this would bring in an estimated £25,000 in 2015/16 and £10,000 in 2016/17. A public document (that wasn’t part of the documents shared with the public as part of the Future Council consultation) estimated that the cost of providing cash payment ticket machines would be £20,000 (see section 6.2 page 9).

Last year as part of that budget consultation, there was a public meeting of Wirral Council’s Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee on the 4th November 2014 where councillors discussed the budget option for charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park.

You can watch that discussion in the Youtube video below which should start at the point about the Fort Perch Rock car park.

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The minutes of what was agreed at the public meeting of the 4th November 2014 are included in the agenda for the Cabinet meeting that decided on the budget options.

At that meeting Cllr Jerry Williams (Wirral Council’s Heritage Champion and a Labour councillor) tried to move a recommendation that the budget option of charging at Fort Perch Rock car park be removed from the budget options. However the solicitor advising the Committee said that it couldn’t be removed, so instead it was watered down to a recommendation to Cabinet that the budget option wasn’t adopted. The recommendation was seconded by Cllr Robert Gregson (also a Labour councillor representing New Brighton ward). This is what the recommendation stated:

“The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee recommend to Cabinet that the budget option to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock Car Park, New Brighton is not adopted.”

                                                            
Cllr Irene Williams (Labour), Cllr John Salter (Labour), Cllr Anita Leech (Labour), Cllr Matt Daniel (Labour), Cllr Robert Gregson (Labour), Cllr Jim Crabtree (Labour), Cllr Jerry Williams (Labour), Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative), Cllr John Hale (Conservative), Cllr Jerry Ellis (Conservative), Cllr Andrew Hodson (Conservative) and Cllr David Elderton (Conservative) voted in favour of the recommendation.

Two councillors voted against that recommendation (Cllr Chris Carubia (Lib Dem) and Cllr Mike Sullivan (Chair, Labour)).

On the 9th December 2014 Cabinet (which is ten Labour councillors including one for New Brighton Cllr Pat Hackett) met. They didn’t agree with the recommendation from the Policy and Performance Committee and instead voted to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton. The minutes of that meeting state “We also feel that it is appropriate to introduce a modest charge for parking at Fort Perch Rock in New Brighton up to 6 p.m.” .

This Cabinet budget proposal then formed the Cabinet’s proposal for Labour’s budget to the 2015/16 budget meeting of all councillors held on the 24th February 2015.

All the Labour councillors on the 24th February 2015 present at that meeting (including those who had three months earlier voted for a recommendation to Cabinet not to start charging for parking at Fort Perch Rock) voted for the Labour budget apart from Cllr Steve Foulkes (who was Mayor and Mayor’s traditionally abstain from votes on party political matters). You can see which way each councillor voted on the Labour’s budget here.

On December 22nd 2014 I wrote When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces? which details how if car parking charges are brought in at Fort Perch Rock car park then under the terms of the lease that Wirral Council has for the Marine Point development at New Brighton, that charges could be introduced at two free car parks (the supermarket car park and the health & fitness car park).

Earlier this year Wirral Council had a formal consultation on introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park. You can see the public notice (which has more detail as to how much they could charge for parking) for that consultation below. That consultation ended on the 3rd July 2015.

Fort Perch Rock car park public notice
Fort Perch Rock car park public notice

There is a large petition against introducing charging for car parking at Fort Perch Rock car park in New Brighton which at the time of writing has 3,395 signatures.

So what happens next? In September there will be a public meeting of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel to consider objections people have made to introducing car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park.

The Chair of the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel is Cllr Steve Williams (Conservative). Cllr Mike Sullivan (Labour) and Cllr Dave Mitchell (Lib Dem) are the rest of the panel. This panel meets during the day and if any of the three councillors can’t make it to the meeting they can send a deputy in their place.

When the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel meets in September, it will make a recommendation on whether to introduce car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock car park to the Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee meet in public on the 15th September 2015 starting at 6.00pm in Committee Room 1 at Wallasey Town Hall. The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee can alter any recommendation they receive from the Highways and Traffic Representation Panel.

The Regeneration and Environment Policy and Performance Committee then make a recommendation to the Cabinet Member for Highways and Transportation Cllr Stuart Whittingham who then makes a formal decision on the matter which is published on Wirral Council’s website.

Such a large petition also grants the petition organiser for five minutes to explain their petition at a meeting of all councillors, which then triggers a debate of a maximum of fifteen minutes. However as the next meeting of Council is on the 12th October 2015 (probably after all this will be decided) this is a moot point.

Finally, what’s known now, but wasn’t known last year, is that Wirral Council had an underspend last year of £510,000 last year (which is money that is carried over to this year).

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What are the changes next year to the public's right to inspect documents of public bodies during the audit?

What are the changes next year to the public’s right to inspect documents of public bodies during the audit?

What are the changes next year to the public’s right to inspect documents of public bodies during the audit?

                                             

Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 2 of 2
Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 2 of 2

Above is one of the documents I requested under the 2013/14 audit last year, which is a page of a lease that Wirral Council have with Neptune that states that if Wirral Council introduce car parking in the Fort Perch Rock car park, then charges can be introduced in the free car parks part of the Marine Point development.

Each year for the past few years I have exercised a right you get to exercise only for three weeks each year, which is a right under section 15 of the Audit Commission Act 1998 to inspect documents relating to the previous financial year (2014/15) during the audit.

This has in years gone past has been the only way to see such financial information and to give one example of a story that resulted in many interesting stories on this blog (ranging from councillor’s expenses and taxis to an unsigned contract for a million pounds worth of work).

This year I have exercised my s.15 right not just with Wirral Council, but with Liverpool City Council, Merseytravel, the Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority and the Merseyside Recycling and Waste Authority.

A couple of weeks before the three-week period when the public can inspect these documents each of these bodies has to publish a public notice in a newspaper that circulates in the area covered by that body. The regulations also require each body to publish this notice on their website. Wirral Council’s notice can be found on their website here.

To save myself trekking off to Birkenhead Central library and spending an afternoon going through back issues of the local newspapers trying to find the public notices, I found this website that has a searchable database of all public notices published by the Trinity Mirror group.

All of the notices (apart from the Merseytravel one) had a name of someone at that public body who I wrote to (whether by letter or by email). In the case of Merseytravel I wrote to the Chief Executive, who passed my request on to the person at Merseytravel dealing with it.

So far the responses have been as follows:

Merseytravel – dates of Monday 27th July 2015/Tuesday 28th July 2015 agreed to come in and inspect the documents. They have a “paperless office”, but will be printing off copies of the invoices/contracts I requested so their legal department can redact parts of them.

Merseyside Waste and Recycling Authority – dates of Friday 24th July and Wednesday 29th July 2015 have been agreed to come in and inspect documents.

Liverpool City Council – email sent yesterday, no reply received yet

Merseyside Fire and Rescue Authority – email sent and acknowledged on the 15th July 2015, no further reply received since

Wirral Council – email sent with request for contracts & councillor expenses on 19th July 2015, reply received yesterday, list of invoices sent this morning, no reply received yet or date/s arranged

Next year, any right of access to invoices and contracts will be under the new section 26 of the Local Audit and Accountability Act 2014.

The main differences will be next year that a new ground of refusing a request on grounds of “commercial confidentiality” has been added in to the legislation unless there is an “overriding public interest in favour of its disclosure”.

This puts on a statutory footing the Veolia case, see [2010] EWCA Civ 1214 if you’re curious about what I mean.

The new section 26 also means that determinations about what is “personal information” on documents (therefore not open to inspection) will in future be made by the public body themselves and not the situation at present of the public body having to get agreement from their external auditor to this. It does make it crystal clear that the names of sole traders on invoices is not covered by the definition of “personal information” and defines “personal information” as “identifies a particular individual or enables a particular individual to be identified”. The restriction on information about the public body’s staff remains in section 26 next year.

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UPDATED: When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces?

UPDATED: When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces?

UPDATED: When Wirral Council introduces car parking charges at Fort Perch Rock, will 3 hours free parking end for a further 423 New Brighton spaces?

                                                                                                      

UPDATED 29/6/2015: The public notice advertising the changes to introduce charges to the Fort Perch Rock Car Park is included below.

Fort Perch Rock car park public notice
Fort Perch Rock car park public notice

UPDATED 23/12/2014: The Cabinet Member Cllr Stuart Whittingham has decided on a resident’s parking scheme for the roads to the rear of the Floral Pavilion in New Brighton.

I’ll start this piece by declaring an interest. My wife is in receipt of a Blue Badge.

The pages below are from the lease between Wirral Borough Council & Neptune Wirral Limited & Neptune Developments Limited & Neptune Projects Limited dated 20th June 2011.

Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 1 of 2
Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 1 of 2

NEW BRIGHTON PHASE II – DRAFT CAR PARKING MANAGEMENT PLAN

CAR PARKING ZONES

Car parking within the New Brighton Phase 2 development will be divided into the following 4 zones.

The Hotel Zone – comprising approximately [60] spaces.

The Supermarket Controlled Zone – comprising approximately [423] spaces.

The Health and Fitness Club Controlled Zone – comprising approximately [100] spaces.

The Uncontrolled Zone – comprising approximately [151] spaces.

CAR PARKING ZONE DEMISES

The Supermarket Controlled Zone and the Uncontrolled Zone will be demised to the supermarket operator.

The Health and Fitness Controlled Zone will be demised to the Health and Fitness Club Operator.

The Hotel Zone will be demised to the Hotel operator.

CAR PARK OPENING HOURS

The intention is that the car park will be open 24 hours a day. However good estate management practice may mean that it could become necessary to physically close the Supermarket Controlled and Uncontrolled Zones. On Mondays to Saturdays the car park zones may only be closed 15 minutes after the last commercial use within the development closes for business and shall re-open 30 minutes before the Supermarket opens for trade. On Sundays and Bank Holidays the car park shall remain open from 8:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m. as a minimum.

With regard to the Health and Fitness Controlled Zone, on Mondays to Saturdays the car park may only be closed 15 minutes after the facility closes for business and shall be re-opened 30 minutes before the facility opens for use by members of the public. On Sundays and Bank Holidays, the car park shall remain open from 9:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m. as a minimum.

Opening hours of the Hotel Zone shall be at the absolute discretion of the Hotel Operator.

In the event of a flood warning the operators of all Zones will be entitled to close the Car Park.

LIMITATION ON FREE PARKING

Within the Supermarket and Health & Fitness Controlled Zones, free parking will be limited to 3 hours between the hours of 10:00 a.m. and 6:00 p.m. It should be noted that disabled parking spaces will not be subject to this limitation.

Users of the Floral Pavilion Conference Facility will not be subject to the time restriction when using the Supermarket Controlled Zone. The mechanism by which such users are

g:cvm6711182new brighton phase II drafal car parking management plan.doc

Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 2 of 2
Wirral Council lease Neptune Wirral Limited Neptune Developments Limited Neptune Projects Limited 20th June 2011 for New Brighton Phase II draft car parking management plan page 2 of 2

identified will need to be agreed by the supermarket operator acting reasonably but it likely to involve the issuing of passes for display within the vehicles. The mechanism will be administered by the operator of the Floral Pavilion Conference Facility. It should be noted that the exemption on time limit will not apply to users of the Theatre.

Enforcement of the time limit will be by means of foot patrol or number plate recognition systems. The uses of clamping will not be permissible. Details of the enforcement method to be adopted shall be submitted to the Council for approval such approval not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed.

AMENDMENTS TO THE CAR PARKING STRATEGY

The Supermarket and Health & Fitness Club operators may submit proposals for amending or refining the Car Parking Management Plan from time to time. WBC will give such proposals appropriate consideration and will, at its absolute discretion, determined their acceptability and notify the operator(s) accordingly.

However, if the Council introduced on street car parking charges and/or charges for the Fort Perch Rock car park, then the Supermarket and Health & Fitness Club operators will be permitted to amend the Car Parking Management Plan relating to the introduction of charges and/or revisions to reduction in the 3 hour free parking time provided to introduce similar changes to those introduced by the Council. The proposed revisions shall be submitted to the Council for approval, such approval not to be unreasonably withheld or delayed.

g:cvm6711182new brighton phase II drafal car parking management plan.doc


So in other words, when Wirral Council start charging for parking in the Fort Perch Rock car park (which has already been agreed), it could mean an end to the 3 hours free car parking in the 423 space Supermarket Controlled Zone Car Park & 100 space Health and Fitness Club Controlled Zone car park. It could also lead to charges for these car parks as high as what Wirral Council is charging for Fort Perch Rock.

Of course when the Future Council Budget consultation was happening earlier this year, I don’t think this was spelt out to the public in the option, but let’s face it would Wirral Council go to the bother of checking what’s in one of its own leases before issuing it as a budget option? After all the budget options were issued in the name of the Chief Executive and it’s not him, but the Assistant Chief Executive that has responsibility for land/leasing matters.

Here’s what the option stated:

=======================================================================================================

FUTURE COUNCIL

Chief Executive’s Budget Proposal

Option: Car Parking – Fort Perch Rock

2015/16 2016/17 TOTAL
£000s £000s £000s
25 10 35

SUMMARY OF OPTION

This option would introduce pay and display parking charges into the Fort Perch Rock car park at New Brighton, where there are presently no charges. The option will generate income from a well utilised car park and requires some investment in providing cash payment ticket machines. There are currently traffic problems developing around the successful New Brighton redevelopment, which it is thought would be eased through this approach. Prior to implementing this option the Council would work closely with local businesses and traders.

Charging would allow the council to continue to offer public car parks into the future in a fair and sustainable manner, particularly given the financial strains on other areas.

IMPACT ON RESIDENTS

May lead to displaced parking into adjacent areas, and may have an adverse impact on visitor numbers and the local economy.

Disabled badge holders do not need to pay for parking as long as they display a valid disabled badge.

IMPACT ON PARTNERS

Prior to implementing this option the Council would work closely with local businesses and traders. Policy already exists for permits to be provided to traders for their employees, and these remove the inconvenience of using pay and display machines each day, and are provided at a small discount. Lead officers for regeneration programmes can brief business partners to this effect prior to the public consultation on budget options.

IMPACT ON COMMUNITY, VOLUNTARY AND FAITH SECTOR

No direct implications.

=======================================================================================================

Interestingly the proposed changes to charge for the Fort Perch Rock car park were opposed during the consultation at one of the overview and scrutiny committees by one of Labour’s councillors for New Brighton Cllr Rob Gregson.

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