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Older residents concerned about plans to scrap ‘vital’ free car parking

26 Apr 2024 8 minute read
Yvonne Apsitis is a volunteer at Llandaff 50+, based at The Pound in Llandaff, and she is concerned about council plans to scrap free parking. Pic: Ted Peskett

Ted Peskett Local Democracy Reporter

Older residents in a city district said they are worried that plans to get rid of “vital” free parking in their area could have “catastrophic” consequences.

Cardiff Council approved a number of measures in March 2024, including plans to get rid of free parking at car parks across the city, to help it save tens of millions of pounds.

Yvonne Apsitis, 85, said many older people rely on the free parking in Llandaff High Street to visit the GP, pharmacy, shops, and attend group sessions at Llandaff 50+.

The charity, based at The Pound, aims to promote social inclusion among people over 50 and holds a number of activities, including tai chi, IT workshops, arts and craft sessions, and talks on various topics.

Yvonne, who is a volunteer at the charity, said: “It hugely affects us living in Llandaff. The car park is vital for us.”

Petition

Cardiff Council said the change on free parking will come into effect this winter following a legal process and any surplus income will be re-invested into highway and transport schemes.

A petition opposing the removal of free parking in Cardiff, launched by Cllr Sean Driscoll, has so far gained more than 3,000 signatures.

Another petition set up to oppose the removal of free parking in Whitchurch, Rhiwbina, and Llanishen has gained more than 3,600 signatures.

Some members of Llandaff 50+ walk to the group sessions but many can’t. Getting the bus isn’t always a viable option either, according to Yvonne.

She said: “There isn’t a bus that will go from my house.

“I would have to walk down to Western Avenue in the first place and then work out whether there was a bus that then went up to Llandaff.

“I have not only at 85 got athritis [but] long Covid, angina, and other things.

“Most people if they can walk do walk and probably 50% of our people do walk because they do live within walking distance… but of course many people live like I do on the outlying parts of the area.

“I couldn’t physically do it.”

The charity is run entirely by volunteers and Yvonne said they are just at the point where they are becoming financially sound.

She added: “One of the big items in our budget is the fact that volnteers need their expenses paid because they are all older people, often on fixed budgets, on fixed pensions, so we pay the expense or reimburse the expenses.

“Any charge for the car park would be catastrophic.

“It is not in our budget.”

Yvonne said the charity can have 100 people attending every week and calculated that a parking charge increase of 50p an hour would mean between £1,000 and £2,000 coming out of their budget each year.

“Social support”

One woman who attends Llandaff 50+ every week, Elizabeth, said the sessions there are very important to her.

Elizabeth, 80, said: “It is a social support for us all.

“I had a cancer operation and here was so supportive when I had it. The support I got from my friends here was really helpful.”

She said she was also concerned about what the removal of free parking and increased parking charges might do to the group, adding: “I think it would have an impact.

“Most of the people who use here are pensioners.”

She also called the High Street car park a community asset that “we all use at various times” for things like shopping and visiting the pharmacy.

Parking can already be difficult at times, according to Elizabeth, who said there are a number of schools nearby and many people park in the area when they go to the cathedral, do some shopping, or pick their children up from school.

“When the shops are open parking on the green is very busy and during the day students park there from the Met University,” she said.

“I would say the worst times are dropping off for school and collecting… it is mayhem out there.”

Businesses and people who work in High Street also worry about existing parking issues being exacerbated by the removal of free parking.

“Dangerous”

Emma Gadd, an employee at Garlands florist and gift shop, said: “Parking in Llandaff at the moment is bad enough.

“It is just going to make things worse. People just park on double yellow lines and it gets so congested.

“It is dangerous.

“There are a lot of new businesses that have opened up and I think taking the [free] parking away will have an impact.”

Garlands employees, including Emma Gadd (far left) and Gill Lewis (centre), are also concerned about plans to scrap free parking in Lalndaff. Pic: Ted Peskett

Fellow employee Gill Lewis mirrored her colleague’s sentiments, adding: “It might deter people from coming just for a little wander around.”

On the current parking situation in High Street, she said there are times when “you can’t park for love or money”.

Gill also said she and her colleagues rely on the High Street car park for work.

“I don’t know what the solution is but we can’t all ride bikes in,” she said.

“We need a car for deliveries and pick-ups. We are coming and going.”

Heathcock Bakery and Deli recently opened in High Street.

Assistant manager Michael Smart said the removal of free car parking could set businesses on the street back.

He said much of the traffic coming through was families and parents dropping their children off at school, adding: “They are popping in for 10 minutes, grabbing a loaf, and then leaving which shouldn’t warrant paying for parking.

“It is just a 10-minute stop.”

Cllr Driscoll said: “Small businesses are the backbone of the economy and employ a lot of people.

“We should be doing all we can as a council to support them and not introduce parking charges that could be to the detriment of our high street businesses.

“Some businesses are already operating on a knife edge and the shopkeepers and retailers I’ve spoken to are really concerned about the future of their businesses.

“As a former shopkeeper and coffee shop owner I know how that pressure feels.”

Cllr Driscoll said he fears the removal of free parking will also “massively” impact patients at the local surgery.

He added: “Another consideration is the congregation – visitors to Llandaff Cathedral who have events and services not just on Sundays.

“Also the many volunteer groups that support the community throughout the week.

“If people decide to stay at home rather than go out this parking policy could impact them leading to loneliness and isolation for these groups.

“With parking in Llandaff already difficult for residents introducing this proposal will push people to park on residential streets.

“Residents will then want residential parking bays that will tip the balance.

“I understand the need to raise more funds but it should not be to the risk of our small high street businesses.

“As a council we need to have debate around how we improve the position at a cost we can afford in a way that does not impact in a negative way on the economic vitality of the high street.”

“Challenging”

A Cardiff Council spokesman said: “The council’s budget position this year is one of the most challenging that Cardiff Council has ever faced.

“Difficult decisions have had to me made, which includes the removal of the free one-hour parking in residential shopping areas.

“This change will come into effect this winter following the legal process and any surplus income will be re-invested into highway and transport schemes so we can continue to improve public transport, walking, and cycling facilities across the city.

“As a council we have to encourage people to become less reliant on their private car.

“To do this we are investing significantly in cycling and walking routes as well as improving the infrastructure for bus travel so bus operators can provide a better and more efficient service for their customers.

“By investing in public transport and active travel we will provide a credible alternative to travelling by private car which in turn has significant benefits, giving residents and visitors better and healthier options to travel around the city.

“The aim has to be to reduce congestion, significantly improve the air that we all breathe, while making Cardiff a better place to live and visit.”


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Charles
Charles
23 days ago

The cost of creating and managing car parking outweighs the revenue. Charging for parking moves the issue to residential zones.

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