At tonight’s Full Town Council, Councillors discussed ways of making the High Street safer for pedestrians.
This followed a meeting by a group of Councillors last week with High Street Traders. The Trader representatives were made up of two from High Street Restaurants, one retailer who is not in the High Street, one Travel Agent and one from a Supermarket.
Possibly not the most representative group for all the other businesses in the High Street. After much discussion it was agreed that it would be of great benefit to the cafes and restaurants if they could put tables on the pavement outside their business which would result in pedestrians being moved into the road at the expense of the free parking spaces.
However the majority did feel that free spaces could still be kept outside ordinary retail outlets along with the bus stop, disabled parking bays and taxi ranks.
It was agreed that the North side of the High Street was currently wide enough for pedestrians from the Library up to WH Smiths without losing parking bays for pedestrian use.
It was also agreed that the Council would ask individual restaurants and cafes if they wanted this facility outside their premises. To my amazement although there were members of the public present, Standing Orders were not suspended to allow non Councillors to speak on such an important issue, and Councillors were happy to agree to ask Wiltshire Council to pedestrianise both sides of the High Street with the exception of the bus stops, disabled parking and the taxi rank, thereby losing all free parking bays.
I cannot believe that our Town Council are so keen to help the restaurants and cafes they seemed to be totally unaware that we have many other shops and businesses in the High Street that rely on people especially elderly ones to be able to park for free outside a particular shop, perhaps to collect medical requirements or items that are heavy to carry far.
We are a Market Town and have always been a centre for people from the surrounding area to come and shop. We also need to ensure that visitors and tourists will want to stop and use the wonderful facilities we have to offer. To make matters even worse the Town Clerk announced that a member of staff had also spoken to Cafes and Restaurants in the Parade who were very keen to make that pedestrian only. Something which several Councillors thought would be a good idea with little thought I felt for the impact that would have on the only Independent Ironmonger we have in the town who suffered terribly when the Parade was closed recently for Water repairs and customers were unable to park outside or near his shop.
To sum up, of course cafes and restaurants would like to have tables outside their premises as at the moment they cannot open inside, but surely we must also consider other businesses and especially our own residents who rely on being able to park for half an hour on the side of the High Street for free and those shoppers who come to Marlborough from our rural area.
Some of us have fought long and hard to keep our free parking in the High Street. Am I being cynical if I suggest that if the Town Council give it up now we might never see it return.
I’m not sure that Wiltshire Council would lose much sleep if they didn’t have to provide free parking in the High Street.
Wiltshire Councillor Stewart Dobson