A town which led the fight against controversial plans for parking meters in the county is celebrating a victory for people power, writes Alison Stephenson.

Devon County Council (DCC) is expected to drop its on-street parking meters idea for eight towns when its cabinet meets on Wednesday next week (March 13).

More than half of the 5,323 representations during the public consultation came from Tavistock which ran a Stop the Meters campaign led by the town’s Business Improvement District (BID).

It was backed by Tavistock Town Council, West Devon Borough Council, Tavistock Chamber of Commerce and the area’s two county councillors, who spoke out against the plans at a public meeting last week attended by more than 100 people.

West Devon’s other main town of Okehampton was the third most vocal location against the meters, with 691 people opposing it in the consultation and only six supporting it.

The main concern was that the meters would have a negative effect on the high streets which are already struggling. Although the first hour’s parking would be free, drivers would still have to display tickets.

A survey conducted by Tavistock BID revealed that 72 per cent of people would visit the town less if meters were installed.

BID disputed DCC’s claim that the turnover of vehicles would be better, as the average time people currently park in the town centre, with its existing one-hour free parking restriction, is just 28 minutes.

Meters were also proposed for Braunton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton and Salcombe and Sidmouth, with opposition outweighing support in all the towns.

At the cabinet meeting, members will be asked not to proceed with the plan and invite proposals from the communities on how they would address their parking issues.

County councillor for Tavistock Debo Sellis (Con) is relieved. “I’m delighted that common sense has prevailed and that people have had their voices heard. The relief is indescribable,” she said.

Leader of West Devon Borough Council Mandy Ewings (Ind, Tavistock South West) is pleased that Devon is asking communities for their views. She said: “I would like thank the many groups within the town who have worked together on the campaign to stop the meters and encouraged other towns to get involved.”

Tavistock BID manager Janna Sanders said: “Our voice has been heard and we thank DCC for doing the right thing.

“Businesses have been reporting one of the worst trading periods on the high street for many years and are currently trying their hardest to maximise the opportunities to make some amends for a financially difficult year and deliver great service to customers.

“This is the best news we could ask for to support the high street and protect and promote our unique and special town centre.”

Tavistock town councillor and member of the Stop the Meters action group said: “What a great example of people power. The people of Tavistock got together and soundly rejected an idiotic, ill-thought-out plan that would certainly have caused the demise of our wonderful town centre. Now we must all shop local and keep it alive!”

County councillor for Yelverton Rural Philip Sanders (Con), whose parishes surround Tavistock, said that his party’s plans were a “money making exercise”.

“It is encouraging to see that both democracy and common sense have prevailed. I would have preferred that we did not have to go through the recent months, but the fact that Devon County councillors and officers have listened and acted on the clear message from the local area has restored my faith in the council.”