A site meeting about the proposed introduction of charges at Brentor Church car park was held on Monday 18th July. It was attended by Andrew Watson (Estates Officer) and Richard Drysdale (Communities Officer) of Dartmoor National Park Authority (DNPA), Helen Harris, Rob Harris and Christopher Pancheri from Brentor PCC, Gary Hunt (Chairman of Brentor Parish Council (BCC), Terry Pearce of WDBC and BCC, and two other councillors from Brentor Parish Council, Caroline Mott , and Philip Sanders representing Devon County Council (DCC) and DNPA. Carol and Colin Sergant represented the bell ringers.
Richard Drysdale explained that DNPA is under pressure to reduce outgoings and maximise income and has therefore (following a review of assets) decided to ask Devon County Council to apply on their behalf for TRO off-street parking orders for a number of their car parks, to allow charging for parking. They propose charging every day including Sundays 10am-6pm, and no vehicle may return within 1 hour: motorcycles would be free, disabled persons vehicle all day £2, minibuses all day £5, and all other vehicles up to 3 hours £2, over 3 hours £3.
Until the site meeting DNPA had not contacted Brentor Parish Council on this matter. Despite the lack of local consultation the deadline for commenting on the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) was 21st July 2022. It is understood that a number of local residents were able to make comments using an online comments form set up by DCC, but clearly a longer lead time and better publicity about the proposal would have allowed for more local discussion.
The TRO, once in place, exists in perpetuity and can be activated whenever DNPA chooses. DNPA members will have to agree to the imposition of charges. The TRO does not allow for putting yellow lines on the adjacent roads, which would require another TRO.
An associated issue is the toilet facility at the car park. DNPA do not want to take over the expense of maintaining the toilet block, which is on their land but leased to WDBC. WDBC do not want to maintain the toilets either as it is a non-statutory obligation that they can dispense with. Currently Brentor Parish Council contributes £1,500 per annum (from the local Council Tax precept) and Brentor PCC £2,000 towards the toilet upkeep. DNPA said that income raised by car park charging will not go towards maintaining the toilets or improving security, it will just go into the general DNPA coffers.
Helen Harris made the point that the church is prepared to take on both facilities, keeping the car park and toilets open and maintained, but that it needs to be able to have the car park as well to raise money via donations etc. Otherwise people will think that paying for parking goes towards the church and the church’s income from donations will drop. The PCC would want transfer of all the assets or at worst agree to a peppercorn rent lease as it will have to pay the diocesan solicitor to take this on so will be about £1,500 out of pocket at the beginning. Since neither DNPA, WDBC and Brentor PC want the obligation of maintaining these facilities, and the church is ready to do so and has already done months of planning following discussions with DNPA, the PCC is very disappointed with DNPA over this sudden change of heart. The point was made that local people will probably not pay (and park on nearby lanes) although visitors probably would.
DNPA officers will assess the public comments to the TRO application and then come to a decision on what should happen to the car park. They expect to be able to let the village representatives know their view by 29 July.