A VOCIFEROUS crowd took a protest against a plan to impose parking meters in Tavistock to the streets last weekend.

Wearing mock traffic cones, waving placards and shouting their opposition to the on-street parking charging plan by Devon County Council, (DCC) protesters made their views heard in Bedford Square on Saturday.

A petition signed by more than 3,800 people opposing the plan to give drivers an initial free hour followed by a charged hour, was presented to DC Councillor Debo Sellis at the protest. This is out of about 5,300 who responded to a consultation exercise by DCC which also covers Braunton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Salcombe and Sidmouth.

The county council claimed the move would reduce congestion and parking shortages and be better for town centre trade.However, Tavistock thought otherwise.

Cllr Sellis said at the protest: “As you can see there’s a lot of community opposition to the on-street parking charges plan. It would not be good for the town. I have been working behind the scenes to ensure the county highways officers know the community feeling. And I’d like to thank the officers.”

The voices have been heard with DCC expected to agree to withdraw the plan at a cabinet meeting yesterday (Wednesday) after officers recommending cancelling the plan, citing the strong public feeling against it. There is a caveat to the expected decision – that new ideas are needed to tackle what the DCC says is a parking management problem in all the towns.

Devon’s Director of Climate Change, Environment and Transport, Meg Booth, said: “There has been significant objection to the principle of new pay and display across all communities and to implement the schemes as advertised would not be listening to the concerns of the communities.

“However, within the comments received, there is evidence of parking problems within the communities and if and when communities identify potential solutions, these could be considered at a future date.”

Tavistock town councillor Steve Hipsey spoke at the protest meeting: “I’m really pleased at the turnout for the protest. It’s amazing that most of the consultation represented Tavistock. I can only say that’s primarily down to effective community representation organised by Tavistock BID (Business Improvement District) which ran the protest from the beginning. That has been justified as we can see by the recommendations to be considered by the county cabinet. But we’re not letting up. We’ll continue the momentum at that meeting.”

Janna Sanders, manager of Tavistock BID who ran the town’s Stop the Meters campaign said at Saturday’s protest: “We’re keeping the pressure up on the county because, although we expect them to stop this plan, we want to make sure they make the right decision when the cabinet meets. We’re fundamentally againt parking charges because that will change the way people will use the town centre for the worse. Charging people will effectively reduce easy and free access to the town centre, which is vitally important in keeping it alive in terms of trade. Parking charges are like taxing people to shop in their own town, adding to the burden during a cost of livng crisis, but disenfranching people at the same time.”

Tavistock’s World Heritage Status could be harmed with parking meters prominent on the architectural townscape. The issues of pollution and congestion were not major factors needing solving by charges, as suggested by DCC.