COUNCIL bosses have pulled a U-turn on their plans to introduce parking charges in Barrhead.

East Renfrewshire Council took the decision to scrap the plans after receiving more than 400 objections during a public consultation on the matter.

Council bosses have called it a perfect example of the authority “listening to the community” and community councillors have also lauded it as a “correct decision”.

However, the timing of the decision, in relation to May’s local elections, has raised a few eyebrows – the decision was taken after a last-minute submission to ERC’s cabinet on Thursday.

Proposing that councillors accept the recommendations, council leader Jim Fletcher said: “I think it is important to show that East Renfrewshire is a listening council.

“There has been strong opposition to the introduction of parking charges from the community.”

“One of the main points raised was the potential issue of commuter cars which may be displaced to other residential streets if charges are introduced. That is one of the potential risks that such a scheme would potentially bring forward.”

Councillor Fletcher also defended the original decision to bring forward parking charges, saying it was originally a choice made by residents.

He continued: “It is also important to remember that these proposals were in response to a public consultation regarding our need to make significant savings.

“Many people who responded indicated that they would rather see parking charges introduced than see services cut.”

The charges would have been introduced at two Barrhead car parks, at Barrhead Foundry and Cochrane Street, alongside five others in the rest of the authority.

Overall it was estimated that the scheme could have resulted in between £203,946 and £239,000 being added to the council’s coffers.

Community councillors had been heavily critical of the plans, warning that it could only lead to “deserted” town centres.

Barrhead Community Council chairwoman Rosaleen Reilly welcomed the decision, saying: “It speaks for itself. This will keep trade going in Barrhead town centre and is excellent news for residents and businesses alike.”

Rosaleen had previously said that ERC was diminishing its own ambitions to increase footfall in the area by introducing the plans.

She continued: “I am very happy about this decision, as I am sure many others will be.”

Neilston Community Council chairman John Scott credited councillors for listening to the public but also was equally delighted, however he questioned the proximity of the decision to the upcoming localelections.

He added: “I am delighted about the decision and Credit must go to the councillors for listening to the public strength of feeling on this proposal.

“Of course, to turn around and approve the scheme in the face of so many responses objecting to it would have been suicidal for May’s elections.

“I am certain that they will return to it at a later date, however.After May’s election the new regime will try to see what they can salvage from this.”

Council leader Jim Fletcher’s closing comments in last Thursday’s cabinet meeting seemed to confirm those fears, when he said: “This may be something that we look at again at a later date.”