A WEST Devon town has made a hard-hitting criticism of the county council’s plan to ‘impose’ pay and display for on-street parking in its retail and residential centre.

Tavistock Town Council has urged Devon County Council (DCC) to put on hold the proposal to charge town centre visitors, shoppers and others for parking after a free initial 30 minutes — currently drivers are granted one hour free. 

The town council accuses DCC of ‘arrogance’ and acting in an ‘undemocratic’ manner by seeking to impose the new charging regime ‘without objective evidence’ of need and of any factual basis for suggested benefit to the town. 

DCC is further criticised in a letter to Ms Meg Booth, director of transport, for an ‘ill-conceived’ and badly timed policy during a cost of living crisis and one which ‘failed’ to account for the ‘unique’ street scene of the World Heritage Site  and ‘failing’ to take into account businesses’ views.                      

Councillors and the traders, represented by the Tavistock Business Improvement District (BID), have joined forces to oppose pay-and-display parking, claiming it would harm trade by deterring shoppers and visitors. 

BID has been running a ‘Stop the Meters’ campaign and collected evidence from surveys of driver behaviour to show that the current parking restrictions work well, with drivers staying on average for less than 30 minutes any way, so negating any claimed benefit from introducing ticketing. 

 Drivers have also been questioned by BID for their views on the plan and most said they would visit somewhere else without parking charges if pay-and-display was brought in.

DCC has suggested three potential on-street parking plans, a ‘main’ plan to cover most of the town centre, an intermediate version which still covered a lot of the town centre and a ‘restricted’ or limited idea which affected just one central street.

The county said pay-and-display would encourage a healthy turnover of visitors incentivise people to use more sustainable  travel choices like buses or cycling and lead to more use of off-street parking in car parks.

A   DCC spokesperson said: “A policy to review parking management in key communities was agreed by Cabinet in November last year. 

“We are currently in discussion with Tavistock Town Council, West Devon Borough Council and Tavistock BID with the aim to shape a parking scheme to best fit the community. Pay-and-display is used widely across the UK and Devon. 

“We believe that pay-and-display is one of the components that is needed to ensure a healthy high street and community; it encourages turnover, reduces congestion, and may encourage some to walk and cycle more.“