Shropshire Star comment: Car parks can drive us all mad
One of the issues almost guaranteed to provoke a response from people wherever they are in Shropshire and Mid Wales is parking.
In particular, people are concerned about the availability of parking spaces and their cost.
Both factors have a profound impact on the well-being of local economies, and councils must make finely-balanced judgements when setting policies.
At a time when it is accepted high streets are under pressure, anything that affects the amount of parking available is bound to provoke a strong reaction. Understandably, independent traders want there to be a greater number of spaces so that people find town centres more attractive than out-of-town retail parks – or online shopping.
And yet such facilities must not be left open to abuse by workers and shoppers who dodge legitimate charges while others pay. A row is brewing in Lawley, where the decision by a planning inspector to overturn an application for number plate recognition for a supermarket car park has prompted anger for locals worried about the wider impact of the move.
There have been suggestions it could lead to the closure of businesses and while not all will be susceptible, some may suffer. On the other hand, Morrisons wish to deter people from taking up spaces that ought to be used by their customers. After all, they have bought the land, invested in it and pay for its maintenance.
You can see both sides of the argument, while the planning inspector said the consequences of installing the system should not be considered as part of the application.
This response, while technically correct, will no doubt prompt further frustration. To their credit, bosses at Morrisons have said they will listen to the views of shoppers so there may yet be a further twist in this story. The debate only goes to show how important such issues are and how the viability of towns and communities can be affected by decisions such as parking.
Perhaps the most encouraging aspect of this issue has been the willingness of Morrisons to engage. Consensus-building and collective decision making is clearly in the wider interest of all concerned and it is to be hoped an amicable resolution will ultimately follow. The needs of everyone must be taken into account so common sense prevails.