My response to Gloucestershire County Council’s proposed permit parking scheme for the Westend and Railway zones is shown below.
I write concerning the above consultation in my capacity as a Borough Councillor for a ward affected by the proposals.
As a councillor representing several hundred individual consultees from both residential and commercial properties, my first request is that the concerns of those I represent are given due consideration within the process, and where anomalies or problems with the proposals are highlighted, even by a single resident or a single group of residents, that those concerns are listened to and acted upon, with appropriate amendments being made to the proposals in response to this consultation.
The areas highlighted to me as being of greatest concern to local residents are as follows: Malvern Road (Northwest of the bridge), Great Western Terrace, Market Street, Gloucester Road, and from residents of private roads.
My conversations with residents of Malvern Road strongly and overwhelmingly indicate that they would prefer the status quo to remain; that being double yellow lines one side of the road, and white lines in front of driveways the other side of the road. Residents rightly point out that the unimpeded flow of vehicles caused by the removal of parking from this section of road is likely to lead to an increase in both traffic speed and traffic volume, increasing the road danger to local residents and children attending Christ Church Primary School. Residents are also concerned that within the current proposals there is no adequate provision for permit-based visitor parking for their guests or their carers within reasonable walking distance, and if the County Council decides to ignore their request to be excluded from the zones, then they should consider moving Malvern Road into the Lansdown (Z13) zone. It should also be noted that Malvern Road is unlikely to suffer parking problems caused by displacement of parking associated with Cheltenham Spa station, as there will still be unrestricted parking considerably closer to the station than Malvern Road.
Residents of Great Western Terrace have strongly indicated to me that there seems to be an anomalous excess of proposed double yellow lines at the St George’s Road end of that street. Specifically, the loss of parking outside of 42 and 44 is held to be unacceptable, as is the loss of parking adjacent to 125 St George’s Road. The Council has also been inconsistent in how driveways are dealt with in this scheme, with the accesses to 31 & 33 having permit parking across them, but the access to 35 having double yellow lines. Along with Millbrook Street, this is also a road where an exceedingly careful balance is required to ensure that the “one wheel up” parking maintains access to the road for emergency vehicles and services such as refuse collection, whilst also ensuring that the pavements can be used by wheelchair users and parents with children in buggies.
The proposals for Market Street seem likely to result is severe parking difficulties as they are likely to result in a loss of half the currently used parking spaces. Whilst the newer houses (26-54) appear to have garages, it seems likely that many of these are not designed to accommodate larger more modern cars, and residents park outside their garage. I would suggest that the lack of responses that I have had to this consultation is likely to be indicative of a “democratic deficit”, with residents being unaware of the full impact of the proposals, and that this section of Market Street should be reviewed, possibly with proposals to seek to allow carefully balanced “one wheel up” parking both sides of the road, whilst also seeking to keep the pavements accessible.
I object to and vehemently oppose any proposals to implement Pay and Display (zones W4) on the High Street and surrounding roads, as this will be significantly detrimental to the economic prosperity of that area. I believe that time-limited (2h or 4h) free parking with the associated churn is essential for the predominantly independent small businesses to be able to attract passing trade, and that the proposed Pay and Display will cause significant and unacceptable harm to the local economy, and consequently is totally unacceptable.
On Stoneville Street and Brookbank Close, permit parking seems to be proposed outside of properties with garages or across driveways, and across the scheme there seems to be inconsistency in how driveway and garage accesses are dealt with, with some having double yellow lines, preventing any parking and some having permit proposals which could see residents’ accesses obstructed. I am also concerned what will happen to any advisory “Disabled” bays that are still in use by the current residents, as there are no details of this within the proposals. The same is true of bus stops and school zigzags,
Finally, I have received complaints from residents of private roads that they have contacted Gloucestershire County Council officers about dealing with parking that may be displaced to these private roads, but after several months have not had any response from the County Council. This does not seem to be acceptable.
Scheme-wide, there are also various issues that need to be addressed.
Many residents have complained that there has been a “democratic deficit”, with people not being invited to the previous informal consultation, and residents feeling that the information provided to them in the statutory consultation is impenetrable, over-complicated and fails to be sufficiently informative of the effect it will have on them and in their specific street. I am also concerned that details of the costs and operation of the permit scheme has not been adequately communicated to residents during the consultation.
There are concerns about the cost of permits. Where the income from permits exceeds the costs to the Council of administrating the scheme, questions exist about where those excess funds are being spent. If they are being spent in Cheltenham on highway maintenance, or improving public transport options, such as Park and Ride, subsidising bus routes into Cheltenham or the provision of car clubs in these parking zones, then this may be acceptable, but for many they are seen as a stealth tax on motorists, residents and businesses; the cost of business permits is not conducive to the economic viability of many SMEs and independent retailers, and for the least well-off residents an extra annual charge of £50 will have the largest detrimental impact. Some thought needs to be given to the socio-economic impact of this extra cost on the least well-off, and how this can be mitigated. The council also needs to ensure that the virtual permit scheme is accessible to all, as it is unclear what equalities impact assessment has been performed to ensure that groups with protected characteristics, many of whom may have more difficulty accessing this scheme, are not discriminated against by this policy.
Given the lack of available parking for residents, I am concerned that opportunities to maximise the availability of W2a parking zones within the limits have not been fully explored in the Westend (Z12) zone, and I would urge the council to look for more opportunities to provide this type of parking where it is possible to do so, and to review Gloucester Road and St George’s Road to see if additional provision can be made.
The road surfaces of Millbrook Street and Great Western Terrace have deteriorated into an appalling state of disrepair that borders upon being unsafe. It is imperative that these roads are properly resurfaced before any lines are painted, otherwise they will rapidly disappear as the road surface continues to degrade and disintegrate, due to the on-going neglect.
When any lines associated with these proposals are being painted, I also believe that the Council should repaint the lines at the signalised junction of Gloucester Road, St George’s Road and Alstone Lane; and “Keep clear” markings should be painted at the Alstone Lane access to the back lane of Gloucester Road and Alstone Avenue.
Where long sections of double yellow lines are present, there exists the possibility of augmenting cycling provision with the addition of advisory cycle lanes. Not only would this be beneficial to encouraging cycling on the road, but the effect of the illusion of a narrower carriageway may lead to lower and safer traffic speeds. Candidate locations for this include Gloucester Road and St George’s Road.
In order to provide extra parking bays, the Council should look at reducing the length of zigzags in the area around 330-336 High Street, Since this is beyond the crossing reducing these zigzags should be possible without compromising either sightlines or safety, and extra parking is likely to be beneficial to the economy of the High Street. Safety at this zebra crossing and the zebra crossing on Ambrose Street could also be improved by elevating the zebra crossing, to the height of the pavement, which due to the vertical traffic calming would be likely result in lower traffic speeds at this conjunction between pedestrian and vehicular traffic.
The Council needs to ensure that adequate plans are in place to address parking issues generated in adjacent areas due to displacement from these areas in the current proposals. In St Peter’s ward, this would include Arle Road and Alstone Lane, and the side roads off of them up to the railway line. There should also be a post-implementation review between six and twelve months after the implementation of the proposed scheme to allow for minor changes and corrections to be made if this is felt necessary by those affected by the changes.