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PARKING - a big issue that will not go away

A letter to householders in Chippy from the Residential Parking Working Group of  the Town Council

Dear householder,

Some time ago you were kind enough to fill in a questionnaire about on/off street parking in your area. We began this investigation because of new restrictions imposed in the New Street Car Park. It soon became clear that this area was not the only one suffering from lack of parking for residents.

The information gathered from the areas we covered New Street/Distons Lane, Spring Street, Rockhill and Albion Street, West Street/Westend and The Leys and Leys Approach - showed that a great many people were suffering considerable inconvenience in not being able to find parking spaces in the evenings and weekends. Meanwhile Church Street had launched its own campaign following difficulties for emergency vehicles reaching St Marys church due to thoughtless parking.

What was clear from all this research was that this was a problem that had grown up as more and more families in older parts of the town have cars (and often more than one car), few houses have garages and the narrow streets do not allow kerbside parking on both sides.

The surveys told us that there were instances where businesses had exercised discretion in allowing residents to park overnight in the spaces for their workforce. It was also clear that places which might have seemed to be obvious car parks (as at Castle View and Penhurst) were in fact not suitable because of problems of noise and the requirements of health and safety around vulnerable people. In places where neighbours were prepared to cooperate with each other, problems of access and night time parking were sometimes solved but there were also instances of disagreement about these things which had seriously impaired quality of life. A particular problem was that of unloading, especially of children and shopping or elderly and infirm people who did not necessarily have an orange disabled sticker.

For some people the struggle has become too much and they have either moved away or given up their cars altogether. Suggestions about residents parking permits were favoured by some and even the district officers put forward a plan for it but this was turned down by the District Councillors because it .went against their existing policy of no parking fees and they felt it would be expensive and difficult to enforce. While there is evidently no simple overall solution, the way forward seems to be through small gains of additional spaces by the lifting of some restrictions, through individual and cooperative efforts and by attempts to adapt existing premises. (It might be a good idea for all places of public entertainment to have over their entrance a sign saying Have you parked thoughtfully Is your vehicle impeding anyones access If so, please go and move it, now!)

The parking group set up by the Town Council following our initial problems with the New Street car park invited key people from both the County Council (who are responsible for on-street parking) and the District Council (whose responsibility is for public car parks). The District Councils view had been that car parks are for the benefit of shoppers and visitors and it is the responsibility of the car owner to find a safe and legal site to park. It had therefore become essential that people from both these councils should talk together and we were treated to a visit from the Chief Executive of the District Council, officers from Planning and Environmental Services and Traffic Engineers from the County Council. We planned a route round all the problem sites in the town and following that they came up with some suggestions.

Unfortunately, there was a change of personnel and some of these matters were put on hold. However what has emerged are some plans to

  1. allow some additional evening/weekend parking in West Street and West End which will have the added benefit of slowing down the traffic along this dangerous stretch,
  2. some reduction of the double yellow lines in New Street and Spring Street, and
  3. clearer indications in Church Street, Leys Approach and The Green.

    In Rockhill, protracted negotiations between private landowners and the District Council have meant that any dream of achieving Mrs Bayliss car park have still not been fulfilled but the Town Council is not giving up on this one. Some privately managed parking in this area may have eased the problem but there is never going to be too much parking in a narrow street with a high density of population. Meanwhile applications from individuals for off-road parking in West End are being considered by the planning authority.

All these things take a terrible long time. It has taken years to establish the enforced parking restrictions in the Town Centre together with better signage to the long stay car parks. The question of overnight and weekend parking in these car parks was eventually solved by WODC officers changing the wording on their signs and making it clear that cars parked on Friday night would be able to remain until Monday morning.

The question of car (and personal) safety in these car parks had arisen several times and better lighting and a pilot scheme of CCTV is being installed. However there are still problems for car owners who go away on holiday or on business and do not take their cars, or even actors at The Theatre who remain for the week and only drive away on Saturday night.

The reason for sending round this note is simply to keep you in the picture and to reassure you that notice was taken of your concerns. Even since we began this survey new and different parking problems have come to light and the pressure is always more and never less. As a group we were heartened at the officers willingness to consider our point of view and their desire to seek practical solutions. We await with interest the analysis of the recent Town Appraisal to see how much of a problem parking appears to be in the eyes of those who responded.

Please get in touch with any of us (through the Town Clerks office) if you are aware of new problems or possible other solutions that may have come to mind.

Gina Burrows (Chair), Sue Chapple-Perrie, Jo Graves, Martin Jarratt

Chipping Norton Town Council Residential Parking Working Group.

December 12th 2002