Devon County Council (DCC) highways representatives failed to attend a public meeting held last week (December 14) to allow residents to view and comment on the county council’s proposal to install parking meters in Okehampton.

Okehampton Town Council, which organised the meeting, had invited DCC officers and hoped they would attend to answer residents’ questions and listen to their concerns, but the county declined to send representatives.

Despite this, nearly 100 people, including Okehampton residents and those from the surrounding area, town and borough councillors and the local press, attended the meeting to voice their concerns about the proposal and their fear that DCC was not taking residents’ concerns into consideration.

One member of the public said that it felt as though Devon County “isn’t listening,” while another said the county council’s reason for the change were “twaddle.”

West Devon borough councillor Neil Jory, said: “There were two things we asked of Devon [County Council]. One was that they do a proper consultation and I think [that should have included] turning up to the meeting...The other was that there should be an economic impact assessment and neither of those things has really happened.”

Other residents have questioned whether the reason behind DCC’s determination to introduce the parking charges is monetary as the county council is currently facing financial difficulties. 

Okehampton’s county councillor Lois Samuel did attend the meeting but she did not do so as a representative of DCC.

When asked by the Okehampton Times, the county council failed to explain why it declined to send representatives to the meeting. Instead a DCC spokesperson said: “These proposals aim to bring Braunton, Crediton, Dartmouth, Honiton, Okehampton, Salcombe, Sidmouth and Tavistock, into line with Devon’s other larger communities.

“Pay & Display parking is widely used, both across Devon and nationally, with well-established schemes in communities such as Bideford, Newton Abbot, Totnes and Exeter.  It encourages the turn-over of vehicles and availability of parking spaces, particularly in busy town centres, thereby helping to support the local economy and the use of local shops and businesses.

“These proposals will mean that parking for one hour will be free to park as long as the motorist displays a parking ticket, available from the Pay & Display machine, which will be available at no charge.

“If a motorist wishes to stay up to two hours, then they will need to make this option when visiting the machine.”

Currently, motorists can park for up to one hour for free along George St, Mill Rd, Fairplace Terrace, St James St, Kempley Rd and Park Row with no return within two hours. However, DCC's proposal would see pay and display parking introduced along these roads. Motorists would be able to park for free for one hour but would have the option of staying for an extra hour for a £1 charge. There would be a no return within one hour introduced.

What reasons has DCC given?

DCC has said that it is considering the installation of parking meters in order to manage congestion, improve air quality and maintain access to premises.

In a statement of reasons the county council stated: "It is proposed to introduce pay and display in key areas to manage congestion, improve air quality, and maintain reasonable access to premises.

"These restrictions are proposed so that availability of parking is improved for short stays. This could reduce congestion and improve air quality as well as providing a safer environment for pedestrians and cyclists. Specifically, the restrictions are proposed to preserve or improve the amenities of the area which the road runs through.

"By designating paid parking places on the highway, free movement of traffic and reasonable access to premises is maintained, in line with section 45 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984."

What are residents' arguments against the introduction of parking meters?

  • It will reduce turnover as motorists will stay for longer because they have the option of staying for a second hour.
  • It could discriminate against those with mobility issues as they would have to walk back and forth between their vehicle and the parking meter to pay for their ticket.
  • It will discourage people from visiting the town centre and so affect businesses.
  • Some of the pavements are not wide enough to fit a meter and provide enough space for pedestrians to pass.
  • If the meters do not offer a pay by cash option, those who do not use cards or phone apps will be at a disadvantage.
  • It will be easy for DCC to increase the pay and display charges over time.
  • DCC has not provided any evidence that the scheme would improve congestion and air quality in the town. There is no evidence that the roads in question suffer from poor air quality.
  • DCC has not provided sufficient evidence that the scheme would benefit the town's economy. The town council has reported that when it asked for evidence a DCC officer replied to say that their professional opinion should be trusted.
  • Some worry that the proposal is merely a money-making scheme for the county council which is currently experiencing financial difficulties.

The meeting was the latest in the ongoing battle between DCC and eight town councils across Devon, including Crediton and Tavistock, which are fighting against the installation of parking meters. Okehampton Town Council is also asking residents to complete a form to register their views on the proposed pay and display initiative which can be found online at

Paper copies can also be found at the town hall where staff will be on hand to help anyone struggling to complete the form. The deadline for submissions is January 7.

BBC Spotlight will be visiting The Cubby Hole by the Victorian Arcade on January 2 between 11am and 11:30am to hear residents’ views on the parking meter proposal.