I believe Surrey County Council’s proposals to introduce car parking charges to be a serious threat to local businesses and the way of life of people in East Surrey. I held a face-to-face meeting with Ian Lake from Surrey County Council when the initial decision was first announced back in January, and have subsequently written to the Council outlining my concerns with the proposed charges (set to be introduced in Caterham, Warlingham, Whyteleafe, Oxted and Horley in the coming months). I have looked at these proposals in detail and feel that whilst Surrey County Council has said these charges are about the need to raise money in a difficult financial climate, they’ve completely failed to consider the local economic impact these charges will have. The extent to which there have been economic impact assessments appears limited, and they haven’t consulted with local businesses to discuss the likely impact on the local economy at all. There is a real danger that shops in town centres all around the constituency will lose out to those out-of-town larger retailers who can afford to offer free parking. In Oxted ? a vibrant town where people flock from far afield to shop ? the charges would most definitely lessen the attractiveness of the town as a successful shopping destination. But it’s not just Tandridge which is under threat ? these unfair charges are set to be introduced in Horley even sooner. Imposing these charges contradicts the desire of locals to see the regeneration of Horley Town Centre, something which Surrey County Council claim to be committed to. All this comes at a time when businesses are battling with the broader economic climate and need all the help they can get. Surrey County Council haven’t considered the net economic effect, and haven’t considered how it would alter our local communities – perhaps irrevocably. Whether it’s popping into town for a newspaper and pint of milk, or spending some more time browsing the shops ? the County Council have just made this more expensive. A longer, more active consultation period would prove a useful way to engage with local residents and businesspeople. The perfunctory consultation process currently going on isn’t good enough, nor is dismissing local residents’ groups concerns out of hand. I’m meeting with the Chamber of Commerce and local residents groups face-to-face over the coming weeks to listen to their concerns and try to come up with some solutions ? I hope Surrey County Council do the same. We need a solution that works for our area; an area which is a mixture of rural and urban landscape and has a distinct character which we do not want to lose. Tandridge District Councillors are people who are used to making tough decisions in a difficult financial climate, and local residents groups understand the competing needs at play ? but we are all united in agreement that there is a better way than to impose these charges. Surrey County Council really need to go away and think again ? these proposals aren’t in the best interests of the people of East Surrey; they’re simply not good enough.