Medway Labour group is broadly supportive of the Council’s Policy Statement on Placing Objects on the Highway.
In order to provide a substantive response to the consultation process Medway Labour group has spent time speaking to local business owners, local residents and traders. Our submission takes into account the views of the people that we have spoken to and are most affected by this policy.
Any policy like this must be trialled in order to fully understand the benefits and pitfalls of such a policy. Without implementation the council can not be in a position to properly judge its potential success. As such Medway Labour group is pleased to see that the Policy Statement shows that the council intends to pilot the policy in Chatham High Street. This is a welcome move and will enable to council to better judge how the policy would work if implemented on a permanent basis.
However, Medway Labour group is aware that Medway is a diverse area. It is worth remembering that Medway’s five town centres – Chatham, Gillingham, Rainham, Rochester and Strood – are different to one another. As such, a policy successfully piloted in Chatham may not be a policy that would be adequate and workable throughout Medway as a whole. In view of this we would ask that the council takes into account the different physical layouts and different natures of the Medway towns and makes every effort to ensure that we have a policy or policies that would be suitable for each of the town centres.
Having spoken to a number of Chatham based businesses and traders Medway Labour group would like to recognise that the £162 license fee (as outlined in Table 1 of Appendix 1 of the ‘Placing Objects on the Highway’ Policy Statement) is broadly supported. Taking this into consideration we, as a group, would lend our support to this fee.
Medway Labour group would like to recognise that in an ideal world the time that traffic can access the High Streets and the time that businesses are able to trade outside their ‘shop front’ would be exclusive to one another as the two would, unquestionably, have a detrimental effect on one another. We, as a group, acknowledge that this may be practically difficult to achieve in the short term but we ask that the council seeks to ensure that a suitable solution can be found for both traders, pedestrians and motorists.
It is the view of Medway Labour group that there is little or no point introducing a policy such as this if it is not properly and appropriately enforced. As such, we would like to see the council make very effort to enforce the policy so as to ensure that there is a proportionate and common-sense approach to ensure fairness for traders and a safe, pleasant and fully accessible shopping environment for member of the public.
As stated at the start of this response Medway Labour group is broadly in support of the policy being put forward by officers and, what is more, this is a view that we have seen mirrored by local business owners, traders and residents. We believe that there are still a number of obstacles to overcome in ensuring that this is a policy that works in the best interests of all involved and we would ask that the council seeks to address these issues. But this is a positive initial policy draft and one that Medway Labour group is largely in agreement with.