Innovative Southend parking pass delayed until next year

A parking pass that will allow residents to pay a monthly fee to park anywhere in Southend has been delayed until next year.

Southend Pass has been in development for months and was due to be introduced in October with the aim of completely changing the way people park in the borough.

The councillor in charge of the scheme has now confirmed residents will have to wait another eight months before it becomes a reality as he is not prepared to move forward if it is “half-baked”.

The idea behind the pass is to have residents pay around £7 a month to shop or eat anywhere in Southend for three hours at a time.

The whole system would operate using number plate recognition so that motorists can just park and go without the need for permits or tickets.

Councillor Ron Woodley, who is in charge of transport in Southend, said it was his decision to delay the plan until April 2021.

He said: “We were due to discuss this at a cabinet meeting last month but I was not happy with the report, it did not lay out what I expected or what I want to give residents, it was not good enough.”

Cllr Woodley explained that the biggest point of debate has been over how long residents can park.

He wants to allow people to park anywhere for three hours as many times as they want but council officers want to restrict the pass to just one three-hour block within a 24 hour period.

He continued: “The council officers are supportive of this but they are over-cautious whereas I am not.

“What they wanted to do is have people park for three hours in any 24 hour period but I am saying no, park for 3 hours in the town centre for shopping or lunch then maybe drive to a different area like the seafront and park there for another three hours.

“I don’t want any time blocks within 24 hours. That is what will make it attractive to residents.”

The plan has been met with uncertainty from Essex Chambers of Commerce chief executive, Denise Rossiter.

After Cllr Woodley revealed the plan, she said it was unclear how it would support the High Street but it would be “another source of income for the borough council”.

She said a better strategy would be to offer free parking but this is unlikely as Southend suffered monthly shortfalls of between £2.5million and £3million during the height of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A big part of this was a loss of parking revenue which would usually bring in £500,000 a month but dropped to zero during April and May.

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Steve Shaw

Local Democracy Reporter