Parking in Historic Towns
I: Setting the Scene: Chairman, Councillor Ken Browne, Portfolio Holder, Transport, Environment & Rural Affairs, Warwickshire County Council
09.30 – 09.35 Opening of the Seminar, Ian G. Heggie, Chairman, Stratford-upon-Avon Society
09.30 – 09.40 Welcome on Behalf of the Sponsors, ???, Senior Partner, Needham & James
09.40 – 09.45 Introduction to the Seminar, Councillor Bob Stevens, Leader of Stratford on Avon District Council
09.45 – 10.15 Developing a Parking Strategy for Market Towns Like Stratford, Malcolm Buchanan, Managing Director, Colin Buchanan & Partners
10.15 – 11.00 Stratford Local Plan Parking Strategy, Simon Payne (SDC) and Nick Bishton (WCC)
11.00 – 11.30 Break for Coffee/Tea
11.30 – 12.15 Discussion, including comments from Jonathan Pope on how the proposed RSC Redevelopment may affect Parking Demand
II: Experience of Other Historic Towns: Chairman, Councillor Chris Williams, Portfolio Holder, Planning & Transport, Stratford on Avon District Council
12.15 – 13.00 Canterbury Parking Strategy, Robin Cooper, Head of Strategic Planning, Canterbury District Council
14.00 – 14.30 Impact of Canterbury Parking Strategy on Town Centre Business, Philippe Esclasse, Town Centre Manager, Canterbury
14.30 – 15.00 Discussion on Canterbury
15.00 – 15.45 Salisbury Parking Strategy, Graham Wright, Transportation Officer, Salisbury District Council
15.45 – 16.15 Break for Coffee/Tea
16.15 – 16.45 Impact of Salisbury Parking Strategy on Town Centre Business, Ian Newman, Chairman, Town Centre Management Partnership, Salisbury
16.45 – 17.00 Discussion on Salisbury
III: Lessons Learned: Chairman, Roger Pringle, Director, Shakespeare Centre
17.00 – 17.45 Open Discussion
17.45 – 18.00 Wrap Up by Ian G. Heggie, Chairman, Stratford-upon-Avon Society
18.00 End of Seminar
The Stratford Society was founded in 1966 by local people concerned with preserving and enhancing the quality and amenities of the town. To support these aims, the Society from time to time organises seminars and study tours to share best practice on topics relevant to the Society’s aims and objectives. One of the first of the traffic seminars was held on 10 October 2000 and was entitled, Managing Traffic in Historic Towns. The three main speakers came from Chichester, Oxford and York. The main conclusion of the seminar was that Stratford cannot continue to sit on its hands and do nothing about road traffic. The situation is getting progressively worse and the sooner we act, the easier it will be to reduce the problems caused by traffic in the town center.
To make sure that the recommendations put forward at the seminar did not simply end up on the shelf, the Society decided to follow up with a study tour to Oxford (one of the examples presented at the seminar) to see first hand how they dealt with traffic in the town centre. Participants included local councillors (from the Town, District and County Councils), local authority planners, the transport adviser to the RSC and Society members. The visit was a success and the participants learned a great deal about the role of Park & Ride, how tour busses and coaches had been excluded from the town centre, and the lessons learned about how to make pedestrianisation work.
The Society’s Transport Group followed up the study tour by preparing a strategy document entitled, Managing Traffic in Stratford. The paper deals with overall strategic issues -- including pedestrianisation, car parking, Park & Ride, public transport services (including rail) and better use of existing roads – and also includes suggestions on delivery hours, regulation of coaches and tour busses, resident’s parking, new and improved cycle routes, increasing pedestrian safety and curbing excessive speeds. The paper has been widely circulated and has attracted a great deal of interest.
The present seminar complements the above initiatives by looking in detail at parking strategy. How do you balance the need for better access to the town centre, with the need to create a pedestrian-friendly environment to encourage more usage of the town centre.
Listen to your community and learn from it. Don’t be afraid to consider radical ideas. Monitor what you do and be brave enough to admit if it isn’t working. Those were some of the messages from a distinguished group of traffic management experts who spoke at the society’s Seminar on Parking Strategy sponsored by Needham & James, solicitors, in September.
“Whenever people show me a traffic problem, it is always a parking problem,” said Malcolm Buchanan, managing director of Colin Buchanan & Partners, one of the country’s leading companies in town traffic management.
“In a town like Stratford, parking is a scarce resource and has to be allocated between competing demands – workers, for instance, who won’t pay much but are willing to walk from their cars, shoppers who want convenience and have heavy things to carry, emergency vehicles who need instant access and businesses who need deliveries.
“Park & Ride slows journeys down but if you site your car parks nearer to the town centre people are more willing to walk than you think. I am greatly in favour of Park & Walk.
“Others looking for long stay parking would use public transport if it were convenient. Many historic towns also find taxis and coaches are a problem, but there is no reason why they have to obstruct the high streets. Taxis can operate in other streets and coaches have no need to stand around with their engines running. They both have to be dealt with.”
The audience of town, district and county councillors and planners, with business representatives and residents, also heard the warts-and-all experiences of Canterbury and Salisbury which, although larger than Stratford, have similar visitor profiles and street patterns.
Graham Wright, Transportation Officer of the Salisbury Joint Transportation team, admitted that it had been a mistake to introduce only one Park & Ride site and said that another was already in the pipeline and two or three more were being planned.
Both he and Robin Cooper, head of strategic planning at Canterbury City Council, emphasised that no single solution would work on its own – an integrated approach was essential and this should include 20 mph access zones in the town centre, wider pavements, narrower carriageways, effective residents’ parking schemes and better kerb side arrangements for buses to pick up and drop off disabled people and mothers with children.
In an unusually frank admission, Philippe Esclasse, City Centre co-ordinator for the Canterbury City Partnership, said their policy of basing a parking strategy on best practice had failed.
“We have learned that you have to do genuine research into what your own people want,” he said. “You need to understand how a town works at night as well as during the day and explaining and listening are essential to let people know that you care about their problems.”
This theme was taken up by Ian Newman, chairman of Salisbury City Centre Management Partnership, who rounded off the day with an entertaining and colourful presentation, which was also full of practical advice
“Any parking strategy has to serve the needs of the local community first – residents and businesses - not central or local government,” he said.
“But no single sector – councils, businesses, local residents – can have it all their own way. A car owner would drive his car into the shop if he had his way, but in every street that we have pedestrianised every take at the till has gone up and that’s the next best thing to driving the car through the shop’s front door.
“But when you create pedestrian space, don’t leave it empty. You need activity – markets with an international theme, book fairs, competitions to encourage better quality street entertainment – and remember your own particular character. Anybody can have a big anchor store. You also need specialist local shops – and you need to make it possible for people to get to them.”
Representatives of the district and local councils who chaired various sessions during the seminar committed themselves to listening to local views.
“We will consult and listen to the public in seeking to over come the parking problems within the town. We are proposing to consult widely on the Waterfront Masterplan in November and it is vital that everyone’s views are taken into account,” said Councillor Chris Williams, the district council’s planning and transport portfolio holder.
Simon Payne, District Council Head of Policy and Environmental Services, added: “This parking seminar has provided an excellent opportunity to share knowledge and experience of tackling parking problems in historic towns and its conclusions will help inform the work of the District Council on transport issues.'
Summing up the lessons learned from the day’s discussions, the Society’s chairman, Ian Heggie, emphasised three points:
‘“The first message we should learn from Salisbury is that settling for only one Park & Ride site is a mistake. Stratford needs to think in terms of setting up at least two sites at the same time if the whole parking strategy is to be effective. Park & Ride should be designed to intercept about 25% of traffic passing each site and that really could make a difference.
“The second is that whatever traffic policies are decided, they must be constantly monitored to see what impact they are having and officers and council members must have the courage to change direction if that is what is needed.
“The third is that local people must not only be consulted and heeded, but also informed and educated. What is the point of using jargon like ‘decriminalisation’ when nobody explains that it simply means that parking offences will be dealt with by the local authority and not the police.
“It is also vital to understand that pedestrian priority is not the same as pedestrianisation. Many traders fear that their streets will become depopulated if the car is banned, but pedestrian priority means closing the streets to traffic and delivery vans during certain times of day only, so that shopping becomes a more pleasurable experience.
“We hope our seminar has opened up the debate and that it will be a prelude to the County Council’s November traffic conference in Stratford. There are many decisions to be made which will affect everybody who lives and works in Stratford and we should take every opportunity to have our say.”
Seminar Sponsored by Needham & James (Solicitors)
24 September 2002Top