Charging for car parking at Leeds parks would be a huge mistake by the council - Yorkshire Post Letters

From: Richard Constable, Gledhow Road, Leeds.

Why is James Lewis, leader of the ruling Labour group on Leeds City Council, bent on the introduction of an unfair stealth tax which will assuredly target those who are least able to pay?

Councillor Lewis admits that the introduction of car parking charges at all of Leeds seven parks will be “unpopular”.

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This new tax on the residents of Leeds will be much more than that, though. They are a blunt instrument which will unfairly tax the least well off, the elderly surviving on a fixed income and those living in ‘affordable housing’ who want their children to enjoy the simple pleasures of childhood.

Runners make their way through Roundhay Park. PIC: Steve RidingRunners make their way through Roundhay Park. PIC: Steve Riding
Runners make their way through Roundhay Park. PIC: Steve Riding

In short, the charges will target the precise section of the population who voted Labour into power at the last council elections.

I witnessed first-hand last weekend just who is making use of Roundhay Park. It was great to see smiling toddlers whizzing along on new trikes, droves of dog walkers together with others determinedly striding out to complete a lap of Waterloo Lake, whilst others had bought bags of grain from the lakeside café to feed the waterfowl.

And that’s the point. Every one of Leeds parks have been described as the lungs of the city; a precious natural resource for rejuvenating a population of 800,000 people, an increasing proportion of whom do not have access to a garden where they live.

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Leeds parks are also home to many clubs and societies who make greater use of parks than the rest of the population. Park runs are a resounding success story. The runs bring together the young and the not so young for a simple pleasure, staying healthy, fit and active in the fresh air. What’s the Council’s justification for taxing health and fitness?

Roundhay Park is also home to White Rose Canoe Club with a membership that now tops 150. Its enthusiastic membership makes use of Waterloo Lake. Why tax White Rose Canoe Club together with every other group meeting in any Leeds Park?

Certainly, the introduction of car parking charges as a further tax on residents is an easy target for a cash grab by Leeds ruling Labour group. Roundhay park alone attracts more than a million visits annually.

Ultimately though, car parking charges may prove to be the smallest price paid by the residents of Leeds. In 1871 John Barran bought Roundhay Park for £139,000 to give to the City Council which then, as now, was cash strapped.

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The true cost to every resident living in Leeds of a brake on usage of Leeds parks will ultimately be felt not just in car parking charges but in indirect indices such as increases in obesity, poor cardiac health and increased juvenile road deaths and injuries caused by children playing on city streets rather than being taken to the park by parents or grandparents.

Often the things we value the most slip into obscurity with barely a comment. Let’s hope access to Roundhay Park and every other park in Leeds is not restricted by the short-sighted dogma of the Leeds Labour Group.

Leeds Council should be encouraging all of us to make more not less use of our parks for exactly the reasons John Barran donated Roundhay Park to the City: to improve the health and welfare of all Leeds residents, irrespective of their ability to pay.

I urge anyone who cares about leisure for all and Leeds precious parkland environment to contact their local councillor to make their views known before it’s too late.

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