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Post accused of biased view

Swansea Cabinet members have attacked coverage by the South Wales Evening Post of a proposed city centre car parking voucher scheme.

The scheme would turn the city’s streets into a giant pay and display car park with motorists having to buy vouchers costing 80p for an hour in the inner city centre or for five hours in an outer area.

Residents would be allowed two parking permits, but any households with more than two cars could be charged to park one of them outside their home.

The Evening Post has covered protests by local residents’ associations and the Internet-based campaigning group Swansea Against Payment Parking.

The newspaper also did a survey of existing voucher schemes in places like Hull, Exeter and Plymouth. It published forms and invited objectors to fill them in.

But deputy leader of the Cabinet, Lawrence Bailey, told a meeting: “There has been a great deal of misinformation.”

He singled out an editorial in the paper which had urged the council to give park-and-ride a proper chance. He argued that the voucher scheme was aimed at raising more money for park-and-ride.

He said: “It’s a case of ‘don’t let the facts get in the way of a good story’.

Leader Mike Hedges said comparisons drawn by the Post between Swansea and other UK cities had been unfair.

Cabinet colleague Robert Francis-Davies said: “The Evening Post has not handled this particularly well.”

He was particularly angered by the Post’s decision to publish forms for objectors to fill in.

He said readers should have been given a free choice to express their views wither way.

“It certainly encouraged people to object,” he said. “I don’t think the Evening Post is taking a balanced view.”

Local businesses have raised a 1,000-signature petition against the scheme and 25 petitions have been gathered by Swansea Against Payment Parking with a total of almost 4,500 names.

George Edwards, editor of the Evening Post, said: “It is remarkable how the council can applaud campaigns which suit them – like that to site the Welsh Assembly in Swansea – but get upset when we report the view of opponents to a scheme they are trying to push through against massive public opposition.

“The reaction of readers to the council’s criticism of us has in some cases been unprintable – quite literally. Several letters have been so offensive and in some cases libellous that I have had to reject them. Nobody has yet written to support the council or, indeed, to support their parking voucher scheme.”

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