Parking is a hot topic for our part of Weybridge. Many residents and traders feel there are simply not enough spaces near the town centre. Limited availability of off-street parking is a major factor, and PPDRA and others have been pressing for improvements. What should Elmbridge Borough Council be doing?
GUEST OPINION: The first in a series of guest opinion pieces. The following article expresses the views of the author, and does not necessarily reflect the views of PPDRA. Responses are welcome. Interested in contributing an opinion piece? Find out more…
An opinion by Mike O’Sullivan, Wey Road resident and PPDRA Committee Member.
Surrey CC seems to be getting its act together; will Elmbridge BC join the drama any time soon?
Most of us realise that public parking in Weybridge, in fact throughout the whole of the Elmbridge borough, comes in two forms; “on-street” i.e. on roads, and “off-street” i.e. in public car parks. Perhaps, less well-known is that each element is administered by a different local authority.
As the principal highways authority, Surrey County Council (SCC) duties broadly concern the free flow of traffic. Accordingly, it is tasked with the responsibility for the on-street parking element, including the imposition of restrictions such as yellow lines, time limits etc., whilst it falls upon Elmbridge Borough Council (EBC) to provide and manage off-street space in the form of public car parks. EBC also, confusingly, is subcontracted to enforce any restriction imposed by SCC.
Technically, parking on any publicly-maintained highway is not permitted. However, on such roads where no restriction exists, it is “tolerated” by the powers that be, and it is this on-street element that has continued to be such an emotive and unresolved issue in Weybridge for many years, with still no sign of improvement for the foreseeable future.
Until now, SCC has carried out an annual review of on-street parking through its consideration of the multitude of applications it has received throughout the previous 12 months from residents and/or resident organisations for restrictions to be imposed; either to reduce highway hazards, impose time restrictions, or facilitate resident parking within a particular road or roads.
Without going here into the detail of the decision-making process for these applications, which process has its own, arguable imperfections, SCC has recently recognised that this piecemeal approach has often merely shifted a particular problem from one area or road to another. [See Editor’s note 1*]
It is therefore hoped that the holistic, Borough-wide review procedure recently announced by SCC and approved by EBC (mentioned in the latest PPDRA Newsletter, and also to be found elsewhere on this website) will lead to an improvement in the status quo. (Newer residents may be interested to learn that an attempt was made by SCC to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone throughout North Weybridge in 2008, but a flawed consultation process, together with the inability of residents to reach a consensus on the various measures suggested, led to it remaining unresolved and was eventually dropped). [See Editor’s note 2**]
Although attempts to improve on-street parking can only be viewed as a sticking plaster over a widening wound, I believe SCC should be credited as seemingly being the only one of the two authorities in the mix that is actually doing something…anything, about alleviating the present, dire situation. However, it cannot be expected that “on-street” management by SCC alone will solve EBC “off-street” inadequacy.
The elephant in the room for me – and I believe for many others – is Elmbridge Borough Council. A North Weybridge Ward Councillor recently advised PPDRA that he was not aware of any active plan within that Council to increase public off-street parking in Weybridge. From my viewpoint as a concerned resident, I have seen no interest in, nor action, plan or policy being shown by Elmbridge Borough Council towards its responsibility to provide sufficient off-street space so desperately needed to accommodate the growing volume of long-term/commuter parking, and so help alleviate the present on-street problem.
Is it too simple to link this “off-street” inaction with the root cause of the present “on-street” parking chaos in our town? I personally don’t think so, yet as far as I can see EBC continues to leave SCC to manage the issue as best it can with minimal assistance.
I think it is about time that Elmbridge BC got its act together on this, and I intend to assist PPDRA on behalf of its local residents to lobby for some positive action. Personally, I do not think our Borough Council can simply be allowed to remain sitting on its hands and appearing to ignore its responsibilities here, whilst raking in car parking charges (did you know that they’re going up again in April?) and expect our local streets to absorb the overflow and inconvenience.
Should this article resonate with you, you might wish to contact the Elmbridge Councillor responsible for Highways and Transport at: email@example.com, let PPDRA have your suggestions for a solution at firstname.lastname@example.org and take a topical opportunity to question your local candidate(s) in the run-up to the General & Local Elections.
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*Editor’s note 1: Local on-street parking restrictions, and the proposed new Elmbridge strategic parking review, are agreed by the Surrey County Council (Elmbridge) Local Committee, which is made up of SCC members and Elmbridge Borough Councillors.
**Editor’s note 2: Along with many local residents, PPDRA opposed Surrey County Council’s 2008-9 proposed North Weybridge CPZ scheme (which was offered as a take-it-or-leave-it package), since it would have imposed a significant reduction in the overall total of on-street parking spaces – leaving some residents with simply nowhere to park – with new restrictions in almost every road, including putting yellow lines along the whole length of Portmore Park Road, which residents feared would also increase rat-run traffic flow and speed. In SCC’s consultation on their 2008-9 CPZ scheme, nearly three quarters of all responses from North Weybridge residents were negative about the scheme proposed by Surrey. However, the consultation failed to ask what it was that people opposed. Were they against the specific CPZ scheme that Surrey proposed? And if so, why? Which aspects of it? Or were they against the principle of making a large part of North Weybridge a Controlled Parking Zone?
PPDRA recognises that there are strongly felt needs for parking control in some roads adjacent to the High Street, and believes that the forthcoming review is an opportunity for Surrey to conduct a more effective consultation, and arrive at a scheme which meets the needs of our local community – a scheme which makes much better use of available on-street parking space than the 2008 proposals.
In the Editor’s view, any on-street parking review must be properly coordinated with a review of off-street parking needs and provision – something that was attempted in a joint initiative by Elmbridge Borough and Surrey County Councils in 2008 when they commissioned consultants to produce a draft Elmbridge Parking Management Strategy, covering the whole of the borough. The draft was commented on in detail by EBC councillors via a Parking Management Strategy Task Group. There are several aspects of this which are relevant to the new proposed review, so PPDRA intends to put more about this on our website in the coming weeks.