Column in the Barry & District News by Alun Cairns MP:
Many of us are pleased to welcome the lifting of some lockdown restrictions this week. People across the UK are now able to reunite with friends and family, which is fantastic news. There’s no doubt that lockdown has been challenging and I pay tribute to everyone who has played their role in following the guidance and getting us to this stage.
With this encouraging step, I recommend that we enjoy our newly permitted freedom but do so with caution and continue to remember to keep to the 2 metre social distancing.
Firstly, it’s important to recognise that there are regional differences in what is permitted, as restrictions have not been relaxed in the same way in Wales as in England.
Secondly, and more importantly, the latest figures that I have seen show that Cardiff and the Vale is one of the areas in the UK with the highest rate of infections. This means that we need to be vigilant.
I know that we are all incredibly keen to return safely to normality as quickly as we can. However, this is a process and we stand the best chance of success by following the guidance from the medical experts.
I would also like to highlight the Vale Council’s plans to push ahead with the proposal for car parking charges, which I am extremely disappointed by.
Readers will be aware that I have always been a strong opponent of car parking charges, however, I feel particularly uneasy about them being brought in at such an uncertain and challenging time for businesses. Coronavirus has changed the world, it’s shut down local traders and the difficulties that they face may continue for some time. Right now, the high street is in serious danger of not surviving.
Parking charges would be the final nail for traders and I am worried about the impact these proposals will have in all our shopping and coastal areas. They will destroy local businesses.
I also worry about the impact the charges will have on community initiatives like Barry Island Park Run, which will only suffer as a result.
The Council must recognise that they should not be pursuing policies which will damage our area. They were wrong to think that any introduction was reasonable but in the current context they must now completely scrap their plans.
When we return to normality, we should be looking at ways of encouraging people to shop locally and support our high streets. That’s what I’ll be doing, and I hope that the Vale Council will play their part.