The Gibraltar Government and GSD Opposition clashed yesterday over the new Zone 2 parking scheme.
The scheme, which came into effect earlier this month, has drawn flak from frustrated local drivers who are unable to park in town even when there is ample space available.
In a statement the GSD said: “It is a sad indictment of the Government’s strategic parking plan, which took years to create and cost hundreds of thousands of pounds paid to expensive foreign consultants, that something as important as parking and access to town should have been got so wrong.”
The party explained that present situation is not sustainable with dozens of spaces lying empty while commuters from other districts across Gibraltar struggle to find any parking to allow them to get to work or access to shops.
The Government subsequently hit back, however, insisting that the GSD seizing an opportunity to score “very cheap political points”.
The Government further claimed that there is a “clear dichotomy” between the needs of commuters to town and those of Zone 2 residents who “have been quick to praise the scheme”.
The GSD acknowledged that demand for these empty spaces may rise from town residents as more permits are processed, it stated that this seems to be happening at an inordinately slow rate anddoes not solve the problem for those who need to get to town on a daily basis.
“The Government needs to consider how this problem will be solved going forward, it is not good enough for them to take a wait and see attitude, these issues should have been foreseen by those highly paid consultants.”
It added that the sudden claim that this is only a trial “does not hold water”.
“People have asked to pay for permits, they were not being told that this was for a trial period and will have to now be refunded if the system is not introduced.”
“This is clearly Government preparing to make a U-turn on a policy that it got wrong,” the GSD said.
“Despite Government’s claims, there is now less parking available in town now than previously, this is clear from the daily experience of many in Gibraltar.”
The GSD has suggested that metering the available on street spaces for non-residents of Zone 2 during normal working hours would allow use of empty spaces and therefore increase the amount of available parking, while still providing for residents of the town area.
In a statement of its own yesterday evening, however, the Government said the GSD simply cannot grasp the basic concept of a Residential Parking Scheme.
“Through their own admission the concept is too difficult and requires the political bravery to take very difficult decisions: something that the GSD would not even contemplate,” No. 6 Convent Place said.
“The GSD’s failed Residential Parking Scheme in late 2011 required the employment of 33 Highway Enforcement Officers – they clearly expected a battle ahead of them – to enforce the scheme in the North District alone.”
Seeing the extent of public reaction, the GSD tackled the simple Alameda Estate, overlooked the centre of town and moved on to the far easier to enforce South District, the Government added.
“Even in their half-hearted approach, the GSD then took their time, with a very lengthy and convenient pause which never saw the South District parking scheme being implemented before the General Elections in 2011.”
“Political bravery? The GSD have none whatsoever.”
The Government said it accepts that Zone 2 cannot please everyone and creates increased inconvenience for some who commute to town from other residential areas.
But, it said, there is a clear dichotomy between the needs of commuters to town and those of Zone 2 residents, who have been quick to praise the scheme.
The Residential Parking Scheme is a part of the wider STTPP, which aims to revolutionise transport and parking in Gibraltar over time.
A significant factor in this will be to reduce the numbers of vehicles on Gibraltar’s roads.
The Government flagged how over the past 14 working days, 174 new vehicles have been registered locally whilst only 38 vehicles have been disposed of.
If this trend continues, it will only serve to increase the demand for parking in the limited space that Gibraltar has available.
The Residential Parking Scheme aims to make the fairest use of this limited space, No. 6 said.
“Although change is difficult, it is important to give Zone 2 time to breathe.”
The Government added that all schemes of this nature require time and said the politically brave thing to do now is to sit back, listen to feedback from the public and give the scheme time.
“In the meantime, it is important to allow those waiting to collect their permits to do so. The Government expects that residents will make use of all the parking spaces allocated to them.”
“If they do not, the scheme will have succeeded in providing extra parking spaces, which could then be put to another use.”
Minister for Transport, Paul Balban, said: “I have been very clear that the Residential Parking Scheme, as indeed most of the initiatives that arise from the STTPP, are pilot in nature.”
“They have to be: this is not an exact science. Zone 2 will be reviewed and tweaked as necessary before any firm decision is taken as to the viability of the scheme.”
“There is absolutely nothing for me to be concerned about: the Government has been resolute in giving life to this very difficult initiative where there is all to play for and all to gain.”
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