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The Sunday before our cruise, the lad and I treated ourselves to a cooked breakfast, at the Ivy House pub in Tonbridge, before attending a protest meeting in the town centre. No before going any further I'd like to add that whilst I've been on a number of marches and demonstrations, back in my student days and, more recently against the madness and futility of Brexit, these events have always been peaceful and good natured. The same applied to the other Sunday's protest, which took the form of a gathering at the entrance to River Walk, just below the outer walls of Tonbridge's imposing 13th century castle.
The purpose of the meeting was to draw attention to the local authority's plans to scrapfree parking on Sundays and Bank Holidays. The charging period will also be extended from 18:00 BST to 20:00. Parking on Christmas Day, Boxing Day, New Year's Day and overnight will remain free. Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council claim the changes are needed tohelp meet the rising costs of running its car parks,
with Conservative Councillor Martin Coffin claiming it could cost the council £107,000 in lost income, if they do not introduce Sunday and late eveningparking. So, despite strong opposition, cabinet members voted earlier earlier in June to implement the changes, which will come into force this summer.
Graham Simmonds, who organised Sunday's public meeting, said hethought Tonbridge would "without a doubt" suffer financially due topeople not visiting the town as frequently,and claimed there was "huge anger" in the town overthe proposed changes. He said that in two weeks a petition gained more than 3,000signatures. "People come into Tonbridge to enjoy the park, to enjoy the castle,to do a bit of shopping, and bring money into our local economy," headded.
Teresa Seamer, who runs the Gorgeous George gift shop on the High Street, said thatbusiness was already harder than ever, with footfall dropping off significantly. Sunday however, is different, and is thebest day of the week. "The whole town changes, it'sjust such a wonderful place to be. People can relax, they've got no timerestraints, but if the charges come in that's all going to stop. It would be devastating to small businesses, and is utter madness. Retailoutlets will question the viability of having a business in the town, and as evidence of this, 27 outlets hosted the petition against the extended hours."
Echoing the sentiments expressed above, Tonbridge resident Kay Sinclair, who has lived in the town for 40 years, said the new parking charges will decimate the high street. She said: “There is a real uniquecommunity vibe in Tonbridge on a Sunday. Unlimited time enjoying the eateriesand shops, spending any disposable income in our town." She claimed that if these proposals go ahead, councilors would be guilty ofgoing against the wishes of those members of the public who voted them into office in the belief they would serve the best interests of local residents. Expressing the views of other speakers, she added:“Sunday is a pivotal day for many Tonbridge businesses and the parking charges would decimate the high street, andbe the death of Tonbridge as a community.”
Realistically the protest meeting, the various petitions and letters to councilors are unlikely to have much impact on a council that has already made up its mind, even though to many residents the move seems like just another move in TMBC's war on the private motorist. The sentiments and concerns, expressed above, are genuine, and despite the council's attempts to brush them off, they are likely to impact heavily on local businesses. It should be noted that none of the members of this inner cabinet - Star Chamber, would be a more appropriate name, actually live in Tonbridge, and this too is cause for concern.
The district was created on 1 April 1974 under the Local Government Act 1972. It covered the whole area of two former districts and part of a third, all of which were abolished at the same time:

  • Malling Rural District
  • Tonbridge Rural District (parishes of Hadlow and Hildenborough only, the other parishes went to Tunbridge Wells)
  • Tonbridge Urban District

The new district was named Tonbridge & Malling, combining the names of the former districts. Borough statuswas attained in December 1983, with the authority changing its name to Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council,and allowing the chair of the council to take the title of mayor. The area controlled by the council is rather a hot-potch, particularly it extends as far north as Cuxton, whilst including villages such as Ditton and Larkfield that were historically part of Maidstone.
The biggest anomaly concerns the area to the immediate south of Tonbridge, where despite our address having a central Tonbridge postcode, and us living just 20 minutes walk away from the town centre, 10 minutes on foot, in the other direction, brings us to the area controlled by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council. With boundaries drawn up by politicians and civil servants, with no knowledge or appreciation of local history, or traditions, it's little wonder that we can be screwed over by issues such as car parking charges.

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