The parking revolution: plans for free overnight stay and weekly car boot sale unveiled by council (From Dorset Echo)
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The parking revolution: plans for free overnight stay and weekly car boot sale unveiled by Weymouth and Portland council
Council chiefs have given more detail on transforming the parking service with a series of measures to make the area more attractive, boost the economy and utilise existing parking stock.
Weymouth and Portland Borough Council’s parking review represents the biggest overhaul of the service to date.
As reported in the Echo, councillors backed the 48 recommendations in the 220-page review in the summer, allowing parking boss Chris Graves to implement the changes over the next year or so.
In one of the first big moves, free overnight parking in most of the borough’s car parks is set to start on November 1, while Mr Graves is working on schemes this winter to make use of empty car parks.
They include organising days for private individuals to sell their vehicles at the Swannery car park and using the same site for a major weekly car boot sale.
An already announced move to slash pay and display charges by more than 60 per cent to pre-recession prices, has been welcomed but proposals to remove free spaces have proved to be controversial.
The council says there is an opportunity to make changes based on feedback from the community, and insists there will be wider consultation regarding on-street changes, including a proposal to remove free spaces from the harbourside.
Dorset County Council is being consulted on the move and, if it agrees, a traffic order will be advertised giving people the chance to comment before it goes back to councillors for a decision.
Mr Graves and transport spokesman Councillor Christine James have met local groups to explain the vision and some proposals have been tweaked where necessary, including giving hoteliers and guesthouse owners greater room to manoeuvre on visitor permits.
They have also reassured fishermen that loading bays will be provided around the harbour.
Coun James says the measures are part of a wider picture to transform the service and make it more user-friendly while also helping the town. She has been pressing for changes for several years but it is only in the last 18 months or so that Mr Graves has been given the authority to put a set of proposals together.
The parking review has examined parking habits, charging policies and the use of car parks – finding that parking revenue has stayed at the same level despite prices going up in 2008, and that some car parks are critically under-used.
Coun James said the review has come about because the council has operated ‘under the illusion that it is enjoying 100 per cent occupancy levels in car parks all year round’ – which clearly isn’t the case.
She added: “In July the management committee approved a significant raft of new recommendations to essentially steer parking in a new direction for the next five to ten years.
“This is the most comprehensive review of parking in this borough and probably the biggest review the council has done in any service.
“It is to be seen through the prism of increased footfall, helping the local economy, improving life in general and making better use of parking stock.
“If the borough needs to grow it needs to improve its offer and parking measures can help with this.
“We welcome suggestions from the community about how we can use our car parks if those suggestions can help the town.”
Ideas for the future
MAKING better use of under-used car parks has led to Chris Graves coming up with a number of ideas, some of which will be progressed this year.
He has been talking to businesses and special event organisers about possible solutions.
It includes car sales days held fortnightly at the under-used Swannery car park this winter, giving private individuals the opportunity to trade after registering on a council database.
Advertising your car for sale on the road is not illegal if it’s taxed but some residents have complained it is a nuisance, says Coun James.
By providing a site for people (not traders) to sell for a small charge, it could help to deter roadside selling.
Coun James said: “There’s only one or two councils doing this in the country.
“We will be advertising it shortly and hope that it will become very popular.
“We think this is an elegant solution and helps to resolve a problem.”
Coun James said she also wanted to thank the Chamber of Commerce who had been very supportive.
Another measure is using the ‘premium site’ of the Swannery car park for a car boot sale from next Easter which Mr Graves believes could rival Dorchester’s Sunday event as visitors will be able to go to the beach or enjoy local facilities afterwards.
The car boot sale would include a cafe concession and children’s attractions.
There are also plans for a motor home hook-up area at Lodmoor car park where vehicles could plug into electricity and water connections when they park.
Concerns over the free spaces
WHILE cheaper parking is being welcomed in the town, concerns still stand about the proposed removal of one-hour free spaces around the harbourside.
Chris Graves came up with the idea to stop the habit of people driving around looking for spaces, make the area safer and free up the quay for people to enjoy.
Campaigner Firoz Kanji collected more than 800 signatures in a petition against the move as he believes short-term free parking should remain for people making quick visits to town.
He believes the current parking offer including free spaces is a ‘good mix’ and taking away the harbourside spaces would actually make the area more dangerous as there would be no parked cars to slow drivers down.
Mr Kanji said: “My concerns still remain. There will be consultation on this when the traffic order is advertised so there will be another chance to protest.
“The council has tried this before and failed and I hope it will be rejected again.”
The secretary of the Weymouth and Portland Fishermen’s and Boatmen’s Association, Andy
Alcock, said decisions affecting loading and parking areas for fishermen ‘were still up in the air as far as we’re concerned’.
He added: “We want to see progress but as long as it’s not to the detriment of our livelihoods.”
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