Saturday, 19 September 2015

Sidmouth parking issues: decreasing capacity at Ham Lane

[This is a companion piece to:
Futures Forum: A solution to our housing problems: build on car parks]

Councils make a lot of money out of their car parks:
Parking 'brings £594m surplus for English councils' - BBC News
Councils across Devon & Cornwall making millions from car parking | Western Morning News
How much did your Council make on parking fees in 2011/12? | This is Money

The issue of parking and fees has been covered by this blog several times.
In 2013:
Futures Forum: Parking in East Devon: where and how much...
Futures Forum: Parking in East Devon: where and how much... part two

In 2014:
Futures Forum: An alternative to councils simply making money out of parking charges: "mixed development"

And in 2015:
Futures Forum: Is it 'Park & Change' or 'Park & Ride'?
Futures Forum: Sidmouth parking issues @ Streetlife

The immediate issue in Sidmouth is the car park on Ham Lane:
Futures Forum: Sidmouth parking issues: increasing capacity at Ham Lane

Last year, the District Council tripled the cost of parking in Ham Lane: 

Parking is in short supply across the town.

EDDC’s short-stay car parks at the Ham and Roxburgh limit parking to three hours. The long-stay Manor Road car park costs £6 for the day. Its Temple Street car park is free, but is a 20-minute walk from the town centre.

And the cost of its Mill Street car park tripled this year from £600 to around £1,800, forcing many residents and businesses to rethink renewing their permits.

Appeal to ‘sense of fair play’ over car park abuse - News - Sidmouth Herald

In the context of the town centre being short of parking spaces, it does not make much sense to reduce these even further:

We certainly need more capacity. The Chamber estimates that we have lost 400 spaces to yellow lines in the last twenty years.

And we need a charging regime that seeks to optimize the use of the car parks, rather than maximize the income for EDDC. The District Council tends to think only of its own needs, rather than those of the people it serves.

And, of course, we need a resolution to the Mill Street disaster, where the car park seems set to remain almost empty throughout the summer period.

The tragedy of Sidmouth's parking problems is that there are inexpensive and obvious solutions available.

Streetlife | Parking fees need to be abolished to benefit town
Futures Forum: Sidmouth parking issues @ Streetlife

This has been reiterated again and again by the Chamber of Commerce, for example in this earlier comment, in the context of proposed developments at Knowle:

We would like to point out that car parks in Sidmouth are ‘cash cows’ for EDDC and that reducing car park capacity is therefore counter-productive

chamber of commerce | Save Our Sidmouth

However, in the face of considerable opposition from the Chamber , the District Council seems determined to reduce parking spaces even further in the centre of Sidmouth:
Parking: raise the price, lower the use, plonk houses on it | East Devon Watch

Here is the front cover of the latest Herald with full comment:

Breaking news & sport in Sidmouth | Sidmouth Herald

And here is the latest Express & Echo:

Council's home plan for underperforming Sidmouth car park

By Exeter Express and Echo | Posted: September 17, 2015

Sidmouth car park

East Devon District Council is planning on building homes on a current car park site in the town.

A study has been launched into the possibility of transforming its currently underutilised Mill Street car park into accommodation for local families in Sidmouth.

Despite a perceived lack of parking in Sidmouth, Mill Street car park, which has capacity for a total of 46 cars has not proved a popular choice with either local residents or business users.Only 25 of the spaces have found customers willing to pay the annual fee of £1,500 plus vat (and business rates for business users) in return for their use. The council almost trebled the cost of an annual permit at the car park last year - a move that was deemed unpopular by many residents.

In view of this current lack of viability, the council is actively considering alternative uses for the site. Investing in social housing provision is one proposition, particularly as the site is opposite the Holmdale housing development.

Councillor Paul Diviani, Leader of East Devon District Council, said: “We will have access to substantial Section 106 funding, so it would seem an ideal opportunity to invest this money in further social housing provision in Sidmouth town itself. We will presently be talking to our partners and looking into the feasibility of a new social housing scheme on this site. However, it is still our intention to continue to offer sufficient reserved car parking spaces at both Holmdale (which has 12 vacant spaces) and Mill Street to meet the needs of our existing customers.

“A full analysis of the viability of Mill Street as a housing development will of course be carried out, with further reports going to Cabinet and consultation with interested parties will take place if the housing scheme that is being considered proceeds to planning application. If the housing scheme isn’t feasible, other options will be presented to councillors.”

Councillor Iain Chubb, Portfolio holder for the environment at East Devon, said: “While we are exploring the feasibility of a housing development, we are very aware that 33 unoccupied car parking spaces in Sidmouth town centre is not to anyone’s benefit. We are therefore considering creating 33 temporary parking spaces to be made available to the public on a pay and display tariff in partnership with a private sector provider. This joint venture arrangement with a preferred partner would utilise automatic number plate recognition camera technology to manage the use of these spaces.”

Councillor Jill Elson, Portfolio holder for sustainable housing and communities at East Devon, said: “Sidmouth is in acute need of more affordable housing for local families. The regeneration of this car park would help towards meeting this need. This is an opportunity that cannot be overlooked, particularly as we will have sufficient funding from 106 contributions with which to execute the works.”

Council's home plan for underperforming Sidmouth car park | Exeter Express and Echo

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