OK….. we all know that Marlborough has a parking problem, don’t we? We don’t need anyone to tell us this, it’s as clear as the sky is blue and sun is yellow? But the study conducted by an independent consultant commissioned through the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan (MANP) and presented last night’s meeting at the Town Hall (Monday 16 October) provided us with clear and detailed evidence that our perceptions were very much grounded in reality.
(Notwithstanding the strange occurrence that affected us all earlier yesterday (Monday 16 October), where the passing of hurricane Ophelia caused a sky darkened to a ghostly yellow and a sun appearing as a strange and disturbing shade of red)
Parking in Marlborough can be a real problem. To what extent, when, where and how was what Mike King, of independent consultancy ‘People and Places Insight’ presented to an audience of approximately eighty at a public meeting in the Town Hall.
The key finding was that at pinch points during the day – primarily the middle of the day between 11am and 2pm – overall availability of parking spaces (on street and off street) was down to the low single figure percentages. Worse on Market Days but not by much. This compares with what is deemed an acceptable norm in other towns where the availability doesn’t drop below mid teens, so the problem in our town is very significant, particularly at these specific times which also creates other ‘knock-on’ problems such as increased congestion, air pollution (and driver frustration) as the lower the percentage of available spaces the greater the tendency for drivers to cruise around searching out that elusive space. The fewer the spaces available the further and longer that searching process becomes.
The study was comprehensive and provided a depth of detail as to time of day, type of parking (off-street / on-street, short or long/medium term) and location. It complimented a recent online survey designed to ascertain what residents of the town believed, which showed that over eighty percent (81%) of the 605 respondents wanted more off-road parking in the town centre, with just over half (53%) wanting this this space to be to the North of the town centre whilst just under half (49%) wanted it to be to the South.
As noted above we all know of the parking issues in Marlborough. But being able to quantify in terms of what / where / who / and effects is vital as part of the process to do something to alleviate the problem. The Executive Summary for the survery can be accessed from the MANP website by clicking here, along with a full detailed analysis in the form of an appendix.
Town Mayor and chair of the Marlborough Area Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group, Councillor Mervyn Hall explained the background to why this study was commissioned: “When we did our public consultation on the Neighbourhood Plan, two big issues emerged for Marlborough: one was parking and the other was affordable housing for young people” “We decided to take two issues further and commission independent surveys. The reason for that is that nobody will listen too you unless you have independent objective evidence that there is a problem.”
He went further to explain how the survey would help deliver the end product – the recommendation for a solution: “The survey won’t suggest solutions, that is down to the Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group. Our role is to come up with solutions that are acceptable to the majority of people in the town.” “When we do the Neighbourhood Plan we have got try and gain what the majority interest is and the plan will go to a referendum so that everybody in Marlborough will have a chance to vote on it.”
He also urged residents in the town to take part in the Wiltshire County Council’s ‘Car Parking Charges Consultation’, which can be accessed by clicking here. This consultation closes at 23.59 on 23 November 2017. “Some of the things they are suggesting I find quite excessive. A 50% increase in the cost of annual permits for example and charging for parking on Sundays so please take part in that survery and make your feelings known.”
The Neighbourhood Plan Steering Group’s next task is to identify where the additional car parking space could be found. ”We will be approaching landowners including Marlborough Town Council and Wiltshire Council with a view to finding some additional space where we can create more parking capacity.” ”We’ve got to find something we can make happen.” he concluded.