Ceredigion County Council has dreamt up what it thinks is a very good idea. It has formed a Let’s-Do-Everything-to-Foul-Up-Aberystwyth Committee. Already, this new task-force have had a brainwave.
They’ve worked out how they can likely deal a terminal blow to a good few of the town’s shops, cafés and restaurants, while at the same time enraging residents by ending an age-old right to free and unfettered enjoyment of Aberystwyth promenade.
The businesses are those struggling to survive in the face of a withering triple assault from the cost of living squeeze, the seemingly unquenchable online shopping mania and the craze among office-staffs for working from home in pyjamas and dressing-gown with a dog as foot-warmer.
The idea - a particularly bad one - is to make people pay to park on a long stretch of Aberystwyth promenade where waiting has always been free.
It’s a proposal blinkered and short-sighted, a thought-free plan powered by a ludicrous display of tunnel-vision. The maximisation of parking revenue is being viewed in total isolation - without a thought for the inevitable negative effects on the wider local economy.
Extract every last extra pound from motorists - most of them payers of Ceredigion council tax - and damn the consequences if that results in exasperated drivers deserting the town, and shops, cafés and restaurants - quite likely already teetering on the brink of viability - closing down.
Never mind the repercussions for people and jobs, for the chances of maintaining for Aberystwyth even a vaguely buoyant, never mind dynamic, air.
This obey-us-or-be-fined committee shows not the slightest awareness that demanding money from people who may simply want to pause briefly for a short walk, or to take in the sea view, could well put them off coming to the town at all, resulting in streets even emptier than they often already are, and causing a further slump in shopping activity.
In short, it’s a plan destined to make lives miserable and the economy turbulent. People have always had the right to walk along the promenade without paying for the privilege, and without clock-watching for fear they’ll fall foul of a traffic-warden. For heaven’s sake, they say, leave us alone, spare us your control-freakery
We demand to be left in peace to wander by the sea, along our promenade, and to perhaps stop for a cup of something and watch the world go by.
For Ceredigion council taxpayers especially, this is a right the authority has no moral jurisdiction to end.
Officially, the people behind this proposal are on what’s ironically named the thriving communities committee. Allow yourself a chuckle over this misuse of language - Aberystwyth will hardly thrive if it’s variously being commercially destroyed, stripped of a basic right and eyed up by bossy councillors intent on raiding personal bank accounts.
Yet we have been here before.
Nineteen years ago - and without public consultation, yet alone consent - the council declared the road between the harbour and the wooden jetty, which had always been open highway, would henceforth be a paid-for car park. The place is now an ugly jungle of poles and notices, warnings and prohibitions.
Now they’re trying it on again.