Pay to park may soon be outside your house

PUBLISHED: 09:00 10 June 2013

Archant

MORE people could be forced to pay to park outside their homes despite 'staggering' numbers of empty on-street spaces on the busiest day in Weston since the Grand Pier reopened.

North Somerset Council bosses plan to expand the town’s on-street pay-and-display scheme despite figures showing the authority sold just 773 tickets for on-street spaces on May 6, a day which saw 25,000 people visit the Grand Pier.

Across the 360 spaces in the 27 streets in the scheme, there was an average occupancy rate of just 29.5 per cent, a Mercury investigation has revealed.

However, the council is now looking to expand the scheme, and is targeting the Lower Church Road area, despite the empty spaces on the busy bank holiday.

North Somerset councillor John Crockford-Hawley said: “That’s a low take-up. Staggeringly low.

“It’s not exactly a major source of income for the council, is it? It is paltry.

“My observation is that both on and off-street are never, ever full to capacity.”

But deputy council leader and executive member for transport Elfan Ap Rees said the expansion is needed to increase parking availability.

He said: “It will reduce the enforcement burden on the police in Lower Church Road.

“Local members have been asking for something to be done here to relieve the congestion caused by all-day parking which often makes it difficult to navigate the road.

“We are looking at other areas across the town centre where we can remove yellow lines and current parking restrictions, replacing some with pay-and-display and improving disabled parking.”

Cllr Crockford-Hawley called for executive members to consult ward members over the expansion plans, adding the current scheme is generally ‘sound’ and that the poor take-up on May 6 was actually ‘symptomatic of retail problems’ in Weston town centre.

He said: “It begs the whole question of ‘what is happening to our town centre’?

“I don’t think we are looking at the situation in the High Street in a long-term view.

“It’s not a problem peculiar to Weston, but in terms of shopping we are definitely ‘second tier’.

“There is too much of Weston oriented towards pound shops.

“I could make an easy political jibe, but it’s much more symptomatic of problems facing the retail heart of Weston.

“It’s down-market. The town centre is heaving with moochers not doing anything.

“The way shopping is going, it suggests high streets are doomed.”

He said the on-street parking scheme is helping create a better turnover of spaces, but more provision should be made for residents living in the zone and just outside it, and more could be done to tackle people parking on yellow lines.

He added: “We are receiving complaints about all-day parking on the hillside.

“There may or may not be an argument for extending the pay-and-display zone, but there is a fundamental need for the executive member from Locking to discuss this matter with ward councillors who live locally and witness what is happening on a daily basis.”

Sovereign Shopping Centre manager Nick Cooke and BID chairman Paul Batts agreed the scheme had benefited traders and boosted parking turnover, but said the low take-up that day could be due to visitors opting to go to the beach and buying long-stay tickets, instead of using on-street bays which have a two-hour maximum.

Cllr Ap Rees added: “Of course the on-street spaces are time limited so not surprising that they wouldn’t be used on a bank holiday.

“The off street car parks are for people who want to park for more than two hours which most visitors and businesses do.”

The figures, revealed through a Freedom Of Information Act request by the Mercury, show the council made £28,282 that day from off-street car parks, almost 28 times what it made from on-street tickets - which was just £1,108.

Grand Pier spokesman Liz Lewis revealed that the attraction pulled in 25,000 visitors a day on the bank holiday weekend and told the Mercury it was its busiest weekend since it reopened in 2011.

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