A POLITICAL row has broken out between ruling Conservatives and a Liberal Democrats at Waverley Borough Council over claims for immediate resurfacing and an end to free parking at Weyhill. Haslemere councillors claim the LibDem leader, Ken Reed, who represents Cranleigh east ward, had stated at a borough council budget meeting last week, that he wanted to convert the Weyhill car park into a pay-and-display, "a move which would force even more cars to park on already congested residential streets". But, Mr Reed told The Herald the Conservatives had tried to "put words in my mouth" and insisted "At no point did I call for the immediate resurfacing of the car park". The political ping pong started when Conservative councillor Robert Knowles, who also sits on Haslemere Town Council, sent a statement to The Herald. In the statement he said the LibDem leader had called for an end to free parking for commuters and shoppers at Weyhill, along with the resurfacing. Town mayor Stephen Mulliner, told the Waverley meeting: "Had the LibDem leader visited Haslemere recently, he would be aware of the dire parking situation and would know that closing the car park for any period of time for such work would cause immense problems locally, where roads are already log jammed with parked cars." Mr Mulliner said: "This is why local Conservative councillors have lobbied to delay such work until a comprehensive Haslemere parking strategy, including possible expansion at Haslemere Railway Station, has been put in place." Mr Reed insists what he said at the meeting was: "Since taking control in May 2007 this Conservative administration seems to have been sitting on their collective hands when it comes to maximising returns on the council's assets. For example, we have known since 2006 that Surrey County Council will not be pursuing plans for a new library at Weyhill Car Park, so since then Waverley has been free to develop this site for pay-and-display parking. "But rather than forging ahead with spending the £50,000 budgeted for this year on planning for the resurfacing of the car park as a priority, and hence improve parking for the benefit of local businesses and shoppers, this Conservative administration has ignored it." He told The Herald: "From this, it is clear that I was being critical of the Conservative administration for doing nothing, since being elected last May, to progress the redevelopment of the Weyhill car park. At no point did I call for the immediate resurfacing of the car park. "The budget for 2007/8 showed a sum of £50,000 that was to be spent in taking the necessary steps to prepare for the development of the Weyhill car park in 2008/9. However, only £10,000 of this £50,000 has been spent in the last year and hence the development has been put back by a year. "Because they failed to do the work and spend all of the £50,000 this year, £40,000 has now been budgeted for 2008/9 – allowing the development to be completed in 2009/10, ie a year later than originally planned. "Frankly, the comprehensive Haslemere parking strategy should have been undertaken this year and it is because this has not been done that there is a delay." Meanwhile, Mr Knowles, councillor for Haslemere South, told Haslemere Town Council on Thursday last week he was "astonished" the Liberal Democrats voted against Surrey Conservative proposals for increased spending on highways. Mr Knowles congratulated fellow Surrey Conservatives for the budget, which includes a further £29m for highways. "However he said the Lib-Dem group had voted unanimously to throw the county budget out without suggesting any alternatives." Mr Knowles said: "This is vital funding, my residents' main complaints are about pot-holes, parking problems, street lamps and other highway matters. I welcome the county decision to devote more resources to road maintenance. "Whatever the Liberal Democrats say, it is clear from their actions that Surrey's highways do not matter to them." Mr Knowles also thinks Haslemere councillors have got the Surrey county budget figures wrong on highway spending. He added: "SCC Conservative administration's proposed capital expenditure on Surrey's roads is an actual cut of 13 per cent over this year's expenditure – the lowest for five years. "The Conservatives have been in control at SCC for more than a decade so Mr Knowles should be asking his colleagues how they have managed to allow Surrey's roads to reach such a dreadful state of repair. This is something of a 'own goal'."
‘Political ping-pong’ spat over Weyhill car park
Friday 29th February 2008 12:00 am