Will arena neighbours have to pay to park?

Published on: 27 May 2016

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RESIDENTS of Totterdown and other areas close to the arena are waiting to hear if Labour’s victories in the May elections will change the way the new venue has an impact on its neighbours.

Mayor Marvin Rees has asked councillors to review the operation of all residents parking schemes. But it’s not clear if this will affect the parking restrictions which are likely to be needed for the area within walking distance of the arena, which opens mid-2018.

Previously local councillors have said residents should not have to pay for parking permits which are made necessary by the arena.

Bristol South Labour MP Karin Smyth backed this position in her Voice column in July 2015. 

In the same month, former Windmill Hill Labour councillor Sam Mongon told a council meeting that local people were “not prepared to pay for an RPZ when there wasn’t a need before, and the arena operator is making a vast profit.”

Knowle’s two Lib Dem councillors, Gary Hopkins and Chris Davies, have been vociferous in calling for any RPZ permits made necessary by the arena to be free – or at least provided at a minimum cost.

However, other councillors, including former Windmill Hill Green member Deborah Joffe, have cautioned that South Bristol should not necessarily be a special case. People in other areas could easily ask for a developer to pay for their parking permits, it has been suggested.

A Lib Dem proposal for local control of the arena parking zones to be written into the planning permission was rejected by Labour, Conservative and Green members in April. The Lib Dems have called the prospect of full-scale RPZ charges for residents “the Totterdown tax”.

Labour’s position on the issue has yet to be decided.

Jon Wellington, elected alongside Lucy Whittle as Labour councillor for Windmill Hill on May 5, said he was sympathetic to the view that residents should not have to pay. In principle, “I would support whatever residents want,” he said.

But he stressed that as new councillors, he and Cllr Whittle want to have a detailed briefing on the arena before making up their minds. They are due to meet Cllr Helen Holland, who as the council’s cabinet member for place, will have responsibility for the arena.

(Cllr Holland, who represents Hartcliffe and Withywood, was until recently the leader of the Labour group on the council. However, a rule drawn up by the national Labour party says that an elected mayor must also be the party leader, and Cllr Holland has stepped aside to hand the leader position to Marvin Rees.)

Cllr Hopkins and Cllr Davies have told residents in their Focus newsletter: “We will now have a difficult battle to protect local residents from an inappropriately designed scheme, and rip-off charges that could so easily have been avoided. The [former] mayor claimed that RPZ charges were fixed to cover costs, but our investigations have shown that to be untrue, and the head of transport admitted at the planning meeting that charges bore no relation to what is needed to run the schemes.”

The council has earmarked £900,000 to cover the set-up costs of any arena parking schemes – likely to cover Totterdown, Knowle, Windmill Hill, St Philips, Arnos Vale and Barton Hill. Consultation with residents is expected to begin in September and continue into next year.

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