Penzance Town Centre

Penzance Town Centre

Monday, 3 September 2018

Penzance East Town Council Vacancy


There will be an election to fill the Town Council vacancy in Penzance East Ward (at least 10 electors have requested an election).  The date of the election has not yet been decided by Cornwall Council Electoral Services.  The timescales for submitting nomination papers once the date is notified (Notice of Election) is usually very tight.  The Notice of Election has to be issued not later that 25 days before the date of the poll and closing date for nominations is 19 days before date of poll.  There can be just one week to get nominations papers, complete them and return them by hand to Electoral Services at St Austell.

Eligibility to stand as a candidate is explained here – in brief you can stand if you are on the electoral roll of Penzance Parish, live in Penzance (anywhere in the Parish) or within 3 miles of the Parish boundary or work in the Parish.  You should identify all the ways you qualify in case your circumstances change in the future.  You also need two voters from Penzance East ward to nominate you.  You need to check that you are not disqualified from standing.

If you are standing on behalf of a registered party then the party officials will know the ropes.  There is special guidance for independent candidates here.

Do read the Electoral Commission guidance on eligibility closely - the advice above is just a summary and the eligibility detail matters.

Not sure what Councillors' responsibilities are - well start here with the Good Councillor Guide.

Website links:

Cornwall Council Town & Parish Council Vacancies (currently showing that Penzance will have an election) 

Cornwall Council Current and Forthcoming Elections (will publish Notice of Election for Penzance East soon).


Good Councillor Guide (from National Assn. of Local Councils).  




Thursday, 7 June 2018

Street Drinking - Central Govt limits on Prohibitions


Street drinking in Penzance is an issue and many would like to see it banned because it is the root cause of so much anti-social behaviour. What is not widely known is that street drinking is specifically protected in ASB legislation from any kind of outright ban unlike most other ASB linked activities.

The Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and  Policing Act 2014 (Sect 59) allows local authorities to impose Public Space Protection Orders (PSPOs) limiting ASB in public places.   These orders can be draconian if the public consultation reveals support for such measures.  The exception is when it comes to regulating street drinking.  Whilst all manner of activities can be forbidden with the threat of fines of up to £1000 (Level 3),  para 63 (4) states:

(4) Consuming alcohol in breach of a public spaces protection order is  not an
offence under this section (but see section 63).




The statutory guidance for using ASB powers (see here) specifically excludes bans on drinking in public open spaces.  

Councils are limited to establishing alcohol control zones where authorized persons (usually the Police) can require individuals drinking alcohol to cease drinking and surrender open containers of drink and pour them away.  Providing the individual complies, no offence is committed.  The maximum penalty in such cases is simply the loss of the drink.  For other PSPO prohibitions the penalty is typically a fine up to the Level 3 limit (£1000) or a fixed penalty fine (under £100).

This exception for street drinking appears to be a sop to the drinks industry.  It is however an exception that comes at great social cost given the harm street drinking does to both the drinkers and the public at large.  It is an exception that needs to be removed. 

There will be a resolution at the extra-ordinary Town Council meeting on Tuesday 12 June to lobby for this exception to be withdrawn.  Nobody should hold their breath because such a change is unlikely to come overnight.  

It is entirely appropriate to expose Central Government 'humbug' over claims of being  tough on anti-social behaviour whilst 'knobbling' meaningful control of the street drinking of alcohol - one of the two big causes of the ASB (drugs being the other).

References:

Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and  Policing Act 2014 here (Section 59 – PSPOs)
Anti-social Behaviour, Crime and Policing Act 2014: Anti-social behaviour powers.  Statutory guidance for frontline professionals (Updated December 2017) (here) 

Wednesday, 4 April 2018

Increased Car Parking Charges in Penzance


 There is a lot of concern about the steep increase in parking charges in Penzance over the summer (1 Apr - Oct).  Below are some facts, background information and my own commenbts on the issue.

 Key Points:


  • Steep increase in summer rates (to £1.50/hr) for Penzance and 4 other towns.
  • Free parking from 4 pm to 9 am in Penzance CC car parks (many other towns already had this or similar).
  • 'Just Parksmart phone app will allow cheap parking in long stay car parks (96 pence/day in Harbour Car Park) but credits have to be bought in blocks (minimum 47 pounds).  Credits don’t time expire.
  • Just Park will eventually cover short stay car parks ( - timescale unknown).

Background.


Cornwall Council took a policy a decision to raise an extra £770,000 pounds from just 5 towns (Pz, St Ives, Newquay, Truro and Falmouth). All the other towns I understand have had a zero increase although most were already substantially less expensive than Penzance and already had free evening parking. 


Penzance fought for free evening parking/night time parking - initially 5 pm to 9 a.m. but later 4 p.m to 9 p.m.  The original aim was to relieve parking pressure on residents in the Town Centre and Battlefields in the evening  given that car parks are virtually empty at night.  A secondary rationale was to grow the late afternoon and evening economy.   Most towns in Cornwall already had free evening parking. Penzance inherited charging in the evening from Penwith DC days.


Cornwall Council’s season ticket schemes offer good value but requires a major outlay, are inflexible and are poorly promoted.  CC is introducing 'Just Park' (smart phone app) which will allow parking at season ticket rates but with an outlay of £47 to purchase ‘credits’.  The parking credits do not expire at the end of the year.   Just Park will allow parking for 96 pence/day in the Harbour Car Park.  The rate is lower still for St Erbyns.  Just Park will suit smart phone users who park regularly in long stay car parks.  Just Park will eventually cater for short stay car parks.


Comment.


Cornwall Council’s reliance on parking profits to 'balance the books' comes at the cost of damage to the retail sector in economically weaker towns like Penzance.  The new rates will have a negative impact on the retail sector in Penzance. 


The lesson for the future is to ensure that the ground rules for any future review of parking charges are properly set.   If all CC car parks in Cornwall had had rates increased by inflation (3% ish) then ~£480,000 pounds of the required £770,000 revenue increase would have been raised with minimal pain. Instead 5 towns have been ‘hammered’ to raise the entire £770,000.  The ‘public consultation’ over proposed charges came long after the policy decision to target increases at 5 towns .  


Penzance got a better outcome (or less bad outcome) than was originally on the cards because of the free evening parking 4 – 9 but that does not mean harm will be avoided.  The longstanding injustice regarding lack of free evening parking has been corrected.  The evening economy/hospitality sector will benefit and residents in the Town Centre will have more parking options.


For those that think CC has other options and is ‘crying wolf ‘over extreme budgetry pressure then consider Northamptonshire Country Council – effectively insolvent and under direct control of DCLG.   Northamptonshire is unlikely to be the last UK primary council to go bust given relentless budgetry pressure and expected future interest rate rises.

Sainsbury's Park & Ride


 Background

The Sainsburys Park & Ride (P&R) site, off Jelbert Way, Penzance,  is now in use primarily as a IOS visitor parking /coach parking site with IOS Parking Ltd (a long established small business providing IOS visitor car parking) having the licence from CC to operate the site.

The project has attracted all kinds of social media interest and speculation so here is an explanation of the situation and some of the background.

The current solution is a compromise.  It is not obvious that there is a better one available given the absence of any permanent subsidy to operate the site as a conventional P&R.  The important point is that the P&R site was bought by Cornwall Council (for one pound from BIH ) and turned into a car & coach park at Sainsbury’s expense as allowed for in the Sainsburys Section 106 agreement signed in May 2012 - agreement here) .  Failure to do so would have resulted in the land returning to BIH and the £1.2 million being repaid by Cornwall Council to Sainsburys. 

For those who want to know more read on (it is long story summarized here).  


The S106 agreement provided the land (from BIH) and funds (from Sainsburys)  for a ‘Park & Ride’ but there was never a solution to fund the dedicated bus service needed to make the P&R attractive and viable.  In the absence of an operating subsidy, users of the P&R were left with the routine bus services that serve Jelbert Way (return trip to Town £3). There was a small S106 contribution to subsidize bus tickets on these regular bus services but the amount was sufficient for only a temporary subsidy.


Both the land and the funding came with claw back provisions such that if the site was not built and used as a Park & Ride the land and the funding had to be returned.


The option of diverting the £1.2 million to higher priority Town Centre projects was explored by local Cornwall Councillors (led by Cllr Tim Dwelly).  The S106 agreement is ambiguous about the use of “unspent funds” but the legal advice was that the P&R contribution could only be spent on a P&R project.   


The urgency over getting the site built and operating has been to avoid losing the land and funding.  Once built the asset would exist for the benefit of the Town in the future even if there was no pressing need for a P&R in the short term.

Cornwall Council advertised for an operator for the site in July 2016 (advert here).  The advert allowed the site to be used for conventional P&R, IOS parking and seasonal overflow from Sainsburys (Xmas additional parking).  There were several tenders submitted.  This tendering exercise was terminated/suspended when the project was amended (see next para).


At the request of the business community (Chamber of Commerce) the original 240 car park design was amended to provide spaces for 8 coaches and 168 cars.  This solution provided much needed parking for coaches but reduced the attractiveness of the site to a potential P&R operator.


The site remained unused for months after completion because of a legal objection from Bolitho Estates who had placed a covenant on the land when they originally sold it to BIH's predecessor in 1978  for use as a car park for the Heliport.  The legal issues (details are not public) were resolved last week so it has been possible to open the site.


Comment


 The origin of the Sainsburys P&R proposal goes back to the earliest days of discussions between CC, Sainsburys and BIH.  In retrospect, it appears that the land was probably offered as part of the S106 package because it could not be sold for development due to covenants.  These legal constraints on the land were not widely known in Penzance until relatively recently. 

The Sainsburys Section 106 signed in May 2012 is recognized as badly flawed. It was developed at a time when the Town was divided over the Harbour so there was no unified position from the Town.  The agreement could not be changed afterwards except at great expense.  Actions in recent years have focussed on making the best of a bad situation.
 
It is highly questionable that a viable business case exists for a conventional P&R in Penzance at present - there is simply insufficient demand from commuters given the other options available including extensive free parking in Penzance to those who know the Town.  Visitors are less price conscious and would use a P&R only as a last resort (they have no choice in the matter in St Ives).

Cornwall Council's ''Just Park'' app will further undermine the business case for a P&R because it will allow commutors to park for about 96 pence a day in the Town's long stay car parks.

Cornwall Council is not operating the site directly probably because it has high costs and would likely incur losses unless it competed for IOS visitor car parking business (inherently unfair on existing private sector operators as the site would have cost Cornwall Council nothing).

IOS visitor parking has become a problem in the Town with development sites being developed (Lidls being the most recent).  It is not in the Town’s interest to have IOS visitors park long term in the Town’s car parks or on streets. 

Nobody is making big claims about the Sainsbury's P&R project.  There was a flawed agreement in 2012 and the result today is the best compromise that could be achieved in the circumstances.  The alternative was return of the land and P&R construction funds to BIH/Sainsburys.