An Okehampton Town Councillor has described Devon County Council’s proposal to install parking meters in the centre of town as a ‘revenue-raising exercise.’

At the latest council meeting (February 27), Cllr Michael Ireland spoke out against the proposal which could see pay and display parking restrictions introduced into Okehampton’s town centre, arguing that improved traffic enforcement measures would resolve Okehampton’s problem parking more effectively instead.

He said: ‘This will not help businesses and it’s basically a revenue-raising exercise for the county council. 

‘Many of the parking problems are caused by people parking where they should not. You have got cars parking up Exeter Road and East Street on pavements and there are no traffic wardens. If the county council was to enforce the parking restrictions properly then we would not have such a problem.’

Other town councillors have also voiced their opposition to the proposed scheme including Cllr Tony Leech who raised concerns that the installation of parking meters would just push the parking problems away from the town centre as people attempted to avoid parking charges.

Cllr Julie Yelland also added to the debate, arguing that if a cashless parking system were installed this could exclude those without smart phones or unsure of how to use a cashless system from using parking spots close to the town centre. Meanwhile Cllr Jan Goffey pointed out that the proposed 30 minute free parking period may not be enough if shoppers get stuck in queues.

However, the proposed parking meter installation is still only a possibility as the county council has confirmed that it is still debating the logistics and details.

In a letter to the town council, Okehampton’s county councillor Lois Samuel, wrote: ‘There is no decision on what the parking meter scheme would look like for each community. The cabinet has approved a policy where we would change limited waiting to pay and display where appropriate.

‘The hours of operation and maximum stay periods would normally stay the same as existing unless the community wants to see it changed. A free period of 30 minutes will be included in the high street areas. We are putting together information and will be arranging meetings shortly.’

Following the town council’s debate, councillors resolved to oppose the county council’s proposal. Tavistock’s BID (business improvement district) is currently running the ‘Stop the Meters’ campaign in opposition to the county council’s decision to install parking meters in Tavistock as well. 

However, without a BID or Chamber of Trade, Okehampton Town Council has taken up the fight itself and will organise a survey to gauge the opinion of businesses and individuals in the town.

It has also agreed to draft a letter to the county council to explain its opposition to the scheme and emphasise that Okehampton lies in a conservation area and the installation of such machines could have an impact on the wildlife.

Yet, it was decided that such action was not urgent as the county council is not due to decide definitively on the proposal until later in the year which, town councillors argued, would allow them to work around the pre-election publicity restrictions (previously known as purdah) during the run-up to the local elections which will take place in May

Devon County Council put forward a similar suggestion several years ago which the town council successfully opposed and there is now a free one-hour on-street parking system in place along many of the town centre’s main roads.

The county council is also investigating the possibility of introducing pay and display parking meters in Braunton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Salcombe and Sidmouth.