A plan for on-street parking meters in West Devon towns has been opposed by borough councillors who called it “nuts” and “flawed logic", writes Alison Stephenson.

Pressure had been mounting for West Devon Borough Council to publicly oppose Devon County Council’s controversial scheme after individual councillors voiced their concerns.

Petitions in Tavistock and Okehampton to stop the meters have gained nearly 5,000 signatures in total and both town councils and Tavistock BID (Business Improvement District) are against the plans.

The county council says the move, part of a proposal to bring in meters across eight Devon towns, will increase turnover of shoppers and ease congestion in town centres. It proposes an hour’s free parking, although a parking ticket will need to be displayed, with drivers having the option to purchase a second hour.

But borough councillors said this week that there is no evidence to prove either town needs parking meters, as restricted one-hour free parking in shopping areas and side streets are working very well.

Cllr Adam Bridgewater (Ind, Tavistock South East) asked councillors to back his proposal to oppose the meters to protect the high streets which have still not fully recovered from the pandemic and rely on a ‘pop and shop’ throughput of shoppers.

Cllr Robert Oxborough (Ind, Mary Tavy) said he couldn’t see how increasing parking options to two hours in town centres was going to increase turnover: “It’s flawed logic. Cynics might say the county council needs to balance the books. Well if that is the case, it needs to be open and honest with people.”

Cllr Kevin Ball (Con, Okehampton North) believes the plan is a complete waste of money and doesn’t see how it could be enforced, as he says Okehampton only sees a traffic warden about once a month. “It’s nuts,” he said.

Councillors are asking for an urgent meeting with county, borough and town council representatives so DCC can explain the implications and impact of the proposals.

The lack of an economic assessment report was raised by Cllr Neil Jory (Con, Milton Ford) who praised county councillor for Tavistock Debo Sellis (Con) for exerting pressure to get the 30 minutes’ free parking proposal increased to an hour.

Cllr Ursula Mann (Ind, Tavistock North) said she was concerned about the way in which the county council was approaching some of the issues it had to deal with because of budget pressures.

The public consultation period on the parking meters runs until Sunday 7 January and the consultation you can respond on the county council's website here.