The Friday Focus: Parking Charges For Ely

Image: Ely Parking

Ely Online intends to periodically evince issues facing the Catherdral City of Ely, in general to question whether Ely is moving in the right direction.
This forum, which Ely Online is calling ‘The Friday Focus’, will serve as a means by which you can consider matters of importance facing Ely in the coming months and years, and encourage you to make your views public and uncensored.

This week Ely Online is to discuss ECDC controversial plan to introduce parking charges to Ely.

The Ely Transport and Parking Strategy

ECDC have been heavily promoting their Ely Transport and Parking Strategy which endeavors to explain the councils reasoning for introducing parking charges for Ely. The site opens with the statement:

‘Ely is a beautiful city and an important retail and service centre and tourist destination for 1.25 million visitors every year.
The city is expanding rapidly leading to a growing demand for access to both Ely city centre and the train station, accompanied by increased traffic and parking problems.’

While I agree whole heartedly with the opening sentence I am not entirely convinced of the need for introducing parking charges in Ely, just yet. Yes, Ely is growing at a frightening rate and yes this may contribute to Ely’s ‘alleged parking crises’. Most of the properties built in the last few years attracted new commuters into the City, not many local people can afford a £250,000 property, so the properties on these sprawling estates attract the commuter overspill generation, eager to get away from their own ‘concrete jungle’ to our rural tranquility while unbeknowingly creating a new jungle in Ely. ECDC is inclined to be dilatory – the council & planners were quick to give permission for 1000s of homes to be built while the infrastructure remained whoefully inadequate to handle the growth?

These sprawling estates attract the commuter overspill generation

ECDC like to make captious statements that find nothing wrong with their own actions but everything wrong with the actions of everybody else. Ely Online has differing views on some of the strategies proposed and hopes to explain what it deems valid objectives while offering alternate comment on proposals deemed short-sighted.

So, Does Ely Have A Parking Problem?

Image: Ely Parking

Today’s motorist is incredibly lazy, as our columnist John Glover remarked in Anne’s View – Week 29, ‘I suspect that the complainers prefer to park ascloseastheypossiblycan to the shop they want to go in. I often see wobbly-bellied men virtually ram-raid newsagents to get as close to the door as they can to speed up their purchase of 20 Benson and Hedges and a Lucky Dip lottery ticket.’
Although tongue-in-cheek the underlying sentiment is correct and can be witnessed almost daily in High Street, be it parking in disabled and motorcycle bays or parking on the pavement if the bays are full, trust me it happens all the time! So first off we need to deal with the Illegal Parking problem of the lazy driver. This has been a major problem for High Street since the road and parking bays were badly redeveloped a few years ago encouraging drivers to park diagonally in parallel bays.
One of the problems with diagonal parking arises from the great difference in motor vehicle length; they simply stick out into the roadway different distances. Another problem occurs when departing drivers have to back far into the road before they see if things are clear. Bicyclists can be caught between sticking-out cars, backing drivers, and others moving in the roadway.

So what do we do to remove this initial distraction?

There are 2 options:

  1. The pedestrianisation of High Street
    Is pedestrianisation so bad? It gives the shopper and day visitor a stress-free environment that doesn’t necessitate the need to manoeuvre through the cars cluttering up High Street.
    There will be a few naysays exclaiming that the High Street is virtually empty on the Saturday it is currently in operation. That argument is not strictly true, what happens is the pedestrian now has more space and no longer confined to the pavement.
    There will – of course – be City Centre traders who will attest that pedestrianising High Street is sacrosanct and will be the death knell for their business, these are of course the same traders that are vehemently against the proposed parking charges. There has to be concessions! What’s your view?
  2. An increased presence of Traffic Wardens
    This would certainly keep the traffic flow moving and would put an end to pavement and illegal bay parking. The problem is that we don’t appear to have full-time Traffic Wardens! I am in Ely most days and cannot seriously remember the last time I saw a traffic warden patrolling the Ely’s High street. Do we actually have traffic wardens in Ely now?

Need for a Change

Lets get one thing straight, ECDC do not want additional car parks and one statement in their strategy did sound hypocritical when discussing car parks: ‘This is a very expensive option that would need to be funded through additional council tax’.

That statement would be fine had ECDC not been proposing their own £14 million relocation

That statement would be fine had ECDC not been proposing their own £14 million relocation from their perfectly adequate premises in Nutholt Lane to Angel Drove, so while they try to alarm people that a new car park will cost the council tax payer dearly they are perfectly content to let the Council Tax payer build their new offices. I presume that the Council Tax payer won’t be funding this venture then! Correct me if I am wrong.
Recently there has been whispers that ECDC are in fact proposing the parking charges to help fund this over priced move. Coun Brian Ashton, chairman of ECDC’s environment and transport committee stated ‘They are not there to fill up the coffers of the council. The move is being partially funded by internal cutbacks’. Partially funded? Partially funded by how much? Where is the remainder coming from? I digress…

Image: Bad parking example

There are many residents of Ely who recently signed a petition against plans to introduce the parking charges, 6000 people infact, this even made the BBC’s news website. Feelings are running high for and against the proposals. So who is right?

The Ely Transport and Parking Strategy does make some valid and some superfluous points. In 4 points the article states Ely has…

  1. Central car parks that are full on market days
  2. Parking spills over onto residential streets
  3. Drivers circling City Centre looking for parking spaces
  4. Overspill from the train station into other car parks

These do indeed seem valid points but if you have lived in the area all your life you will be aware that these very ‘problems’ have been with Ely for over 25 years so why now the proposed actions?

Some car parks are full on Thursdays and Saturdays, its market day! You would expect the car parks at Fore Hill, Newnham Street and St. Mary’s Street to be busy. Ely currently having 1209 parking bays I wager that most of the other car parks should pose no problem for parking, the problem lies with the driver not wanting to walk the 5/10 minutes to the City Centre! With the exception of the school holidays you can easily park in following car parks – Barton Road (5 minute walk), Brays Lane (2 minute walk), Cresswells Lane (7 minute walk) and Fishermans (10 minute walk). I left out Ship Lane as that seems exclusively occupied by people who work in Ely City Centre.
ECDC needs to promote the under used car parks, I am quite sure many people don’t know of the Cresswells Lane and Fishermans car parks exist. Maybe better promotion of all carparks might help.

There is sporadic overspill onto residential streets such as Waterside, Annesdale and Castlehythe which are very close to the railway station (which we will come to shortly) but as the law stands that is not illegal. So ECDC proposal for Controlled Parking Zones does make sense as long as the residents are happy to pay for this facility. At present it is proposed that the annual fee will be £30.00.

Motorists do circle the City Centre looking for a parking space, again, this has been going on for years. Observation shows the area that suffers most from this is the triangle that is St. Mary’s Street, The Gallery and Silver Street. It used to be a problem for High Street but now we have the Waitrose car park it has eased. Even with parking meters installed, these streets will remain a problem as the motorist looks for a 30 minute short stay space and as we know these are limited. Trust me it won’t go away with the introduction of parking meters. I suggest the introduction of a full time pedestrianisation scheme for High Street!

Overspill from Ely railway station onto other car parks and Residential areas is a growing problem as is the unmentioned parking spaces taken up by people working in the City Centre. Why not have a Park & Ride Scheme built on the Angel Drove area of Ely expressly targeted to the commuters who use the Railway Station, people who work in Ely but need to drive in and of course daytrippers.
How would this be workable? Well, we have already discussed Controlled Parking Zones for areas around the railway station, so implement them and to discourage City workers from parking in the City Centre car parks we take away long stay (23 hour) parking for the hours of 8.00am – 6.00pm. We already have parking attendendents patrolling these car parks (I believe) so no initial cost there.

The Ely Online Transport and Parking Strategy

Here are the suggestions we have in brief. By no means definitive but a good starting point.

  1. No parking charges for now
  2. The pedestrianisation of High Street
  3. Traffic Wardens (not part-time attendents)
  4. Controlled Parking Zones for trouble spots
  5. Abolish long stay (23 hour) parking
  6. Park & Ride aimed at commuters & daytrippers
  7. Better access to parking locations for visitors

As ECDC’s camarilla plot the future of Ely I hope they will take into account our observations.

As ECDC’s camarilla plot the future of Ely I hope they will take into account our observations and not discount them as nugatory. If you have any views be it positive, negative or indifferent then please make them be heard. Leave a comment!


As a footnote to this edition Friday Focus it is interesting to note that in last Friday’s Cambridge Evening News they ran a story based on a poll it had conducted about the dwindling number of shoppers coming into Cambridge City Centre. The majority of the people polled cited parking charges as one the main reasons for shopping elsewhere. The poll showed that more and more shoppers were also heading to the out-of-town complexes such as those in Newmarket Road where parking is free. Is this the shape of things to come for Ely?

5 replies
  1. Geraldine Parfitt
    Geraldine Parfitt says:

    Ely Council has an obligation to provide sufficient car parking space for all residents and visitors. It is wrong to suggest that car parks are full on Market days only.

    I believe Angel Drove was a proposed site for additional car parking but have not heard any update recently. As the council are now planning to relocate to new premises in Angel Drove, has the car parking overspill for station and other car parks been shelved? I would like to see the council encouraging residents and visitors to park on the outskirts of the city and walk into the city centre. Alternatively perhaps the answer would be a small Hopper bus service from Angel Drove to the city centre for those who need to be transported.

    If the council continue to give up areas for housing developments they must provide adequate parking. Shelve the new offices for a few local councillors and employees and provide space for the whole of the community.

  2. Philip Gould
    Philip Gould says:

    If ECDC feel that the long stay parkers who work in Ely are the main problem because of their all day use of spaces. The answer to some increase in central parking is on the councils own doorstep. The parking spaces at the Grange (which we own) are all occupied by staff who travel to work and could use a Park and Ride on the outskirts, note the councillors also enjoy the parking at the Grange, only a few spaces are kept for visitors. Let the councillors show they mean business by using the spaces for short term shoppers. If charges are imposed will the Grange staff pay as other workers will be obliged to do – some hope!

  3. Dave
    Dave says:

    Wonderful ideas. But i don’t see how abolishing long stay parking will help. I commute to ely from soham and sometimes not starting till 1 pm. Parking is difficult and I went round all five long stay car parks (Ship Lane, Broad Street, Barton Road and the Paradise Pool) before ending up at cresswell lane. Park and ride won’t work because it will be expensive as i still would have to drive in then pay for a bus.

  4. Mary McGuire
    Mary McGuire says:

    I actually agree with far more of what you’ve said than I thought I would when I started reading.

    I’m not sure about number 5… For my own part, I would be happy to pay if that’s what it took to finance a sensible park and ride scheme and police the thing.

  5. Lee B
    Lee B says:

    Thanks Karl, at last an eloquent and accurate account of the problems (?!) as they truly are.

    Your perfectly sensible suggestions for future plans just go to show what a blinkered and one track approach the council is taking at present. Indeed as an Ely resident and worker I can find very little fault in your proposals. Lets hope ECDC listens to sense though cynically I think the decision is already made.

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