Free parking will now be given in two of Helston's car parks over the next three weeks - but for less time.

It has been agreed by the town council to close Meneage Street to traffic between 10am and 4pm Monday to Saturday, starting this Monday (June 22) and continuing until July 11, to allow for safe social distancing of shoppers and pedestrians.

A number of volunteers are in place to oversee the closure while it is in place.

The council had previously said it was with working with Cornwall Council to provide the first two hours of parking free in Trengrouse Way car park, to compensate for the los of on-street parking.

However, when members met last night it was decided to alter this, so that shoppers could also benefit from free parking at the Tyacke Road car park as well, where access was flatter for shoppers unable to manage the steep slope down to Meneage Street.

In order to do this within the same budget, however, it meant reducing the free period to just the first hour on arrival.

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Members heard that, based on 2019 figures from the same time period, the cost of providing one hour free in both car parks was £2,800 and that two hours in both would be £6,500, with the council having £3,000 to spend on subsidised parking, from money provided by a town's support fund from central government, via Cornwall Council.

New councillor Brendan Thomas proposed topping it up to give two hours free in both, explaining "For the next three weeks I think we need to chuck as much into this as possible to make it successful," but failed in his bid, with many other members saying it was not known for how long or in what other ways the businesses would need to be supported out of that money.

Councillor John Boase said: "I think there was a review that most people will do what they need to do in one hour and the second part of that is lost."

He also pointed out that people could still put in 50p to cover the cost of a second hour, with councillor Tim Grattan-Kane saying if people came at 3pm they could use the subsidised hour and then the car parks were free after 4pm anyway.

Town clerk Chris Dawson said that Cornwall Council would alter the machines to give a double ticket stub, with one for the car windscreen and the other to be taken to the Guildhall for reimbursement. 

People will still need to buy a ticket as usual and anyone using the parking app can ask for a receipt that can be e-mailed to the town council, and either send their bank details for a refund or go into the Guildhall to collect it.  

Councillors also agreed to:

  • Review the safety of Coinagehall Street, Meneage Street and Church Street during the initial three-week road closure.
  • Double the amount of cleans in the Trengrouse Way and Monument Walk public toilets to twice daily between June 22 and September 30, with the cost covered by a discount given by the cleaning company.
  • Give up to £1,500 for bunting to hang in the town centre, which will be put up by Flora Day Association volunteers.
  • Set up a working group to look at street entertainment and other ways to encourage more people to the town centre, with a budget of £2,000 to come from the council's marketing budget.

Councillor Ron Edgcumbe believed the addition of bunting to the streets was "enormously disrespectful" after so many people had died during the coronavirus pandemic, and the town should wait until after a period of mourning, but Rev Danny Reed believed "a lot of people would be extremely grateful to see the town made beautiful," and there was a lot to celebrate in starting to get through the the virus and give thanks to the key workers.

Mr Edgcumbe also described the idea of street entertainment as "preposterous at the moment," saying "We should not be encouraging public gatherings", but Brendan Thomas, who suggested it, said this was why projects officer Martin Searle would be involved, to ensure everything complied with safety guidelines.

It had previously been indicated by one councillor that Cornwall Council had insisted the town council enforce the road closure, but last night Mr Martin said this was not quite the case and the town was not being forced to do it, with the two councils working in partnership - although he went on to add: "The [Cornwall] council has given us guidance on how we should respond to the public emergency.

"It would have happened last Monday but we were told last Thursday we needed to act in some way formally."

This led to Mr Edgcumbe saying that had he known this he would have attempted to suggest other alternatives, adding: "I attended a meeting on Monday believing we had no option but to close the street. That's what I found out from reading a local website.

"We're closing the street and I don't think we have considered the options."

Mr Martin replied that the idea Cornwall Council imposed it was true "to a certain extent," and said: "We have to agree on public health grounds.

"The road closure has been given to us as the best option to relieve the public health issue."

Falmouth Packet:

An hour's free parking will also be given at Tyacke Road car park

This was given by the chief officer of Cornwall Council, backed up by Cormac and Highways.

Councillor John Boase said the council had discussed the matter in at least four meetings over the last two weeks, to make sure members were happy that what was in place was what the council wanted to do.

"We have got a duty of care to the public," he added, also pointing out that when the same road was closed some years ago during gas works one former councillor had been set against it but afterwards reported seeing more people and taking more money.

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Councillor Miles Kenchington said he had photographic evidence that on Monday people had been standing on the pavement waiting to go into a business, which had led to others having to step into the road to get round them while maintaining a two-metre distance.

"This is a three-week period. It's not forever. It will be reviewed," he added.

Councillor Mike Thomas, who also represents the town on Cornwall Council alongside Mr Martin, said Truro, Falmouth, Penzance and Launceston had also put road closures in operation.