Results of Parking Survey (Agenda Item 7)
To receive a presentation from the Norwich Business School (University of East Anglia), on their commissioned research related to parking in Attleborough.
The Chairman welcomed the students from the UEA Business School, who gave a presentation summarising the results of the research undertaken in Attleborough.
Having studied their brief, they had designed a suitably focussed questionnaire and sampled a cross-section of the public in the town centre, at the railway station, and at Sainsbury’s. The survey had been conducted over a two week period from 06.45 to 19.00, with over 900 questionnaires then analysed.
Key results included:
- The main reason for travelling to Attleborough was to shop.
- The vast majority of visitors, many of whom came from within the Attleborough postcode, used a car.
- Many only stayed for an hour or two, but the town also needed to cater for those needing longer term parking.
- Most travelled daily, or weekly.
- Sainsbury’s car park was by far the busiest, with Queen’s Square, the Railway Station and Lidl’s also proving popular. Given the choice, however, most people would prefer to be able to use Queen’s Square.
- The vast majority felt that parking problems in Attleborough were likely to get worse in the future unless dealt with soon, and that congestion was a serious problem throughout the day. Parking problems were perceived as adding to congestion as people re-entered the one-way system whilst driving round to find slots.
- Those who were most seriously impacted by the lack of parking were business users and shoppers.
- There were mixed views about the possible impact of the introduction of parking charges, with a slight majority feeling that charges, ‘park and ride’, or car sharing schemes, would not particularly help ease the problem, nor ease traffic congestion.
- Slim majorities believed that the introduction of a ‘pay and display’ system would help ease traffic congestion; and that supermarket car parking should be regulated through ticket validation.
- By far the strongest views were:
- that Attleborough needed more town centre parking spaces;
- that there should be improved parking facilities at the railway station; and
- against Attleborough having a multi-storey car park.
The students then presented some possible solutions, along with suggested means of implementation:
1) Re-design current car parks in order to maximise use of the space available. Some projects could be achieved relatively easily as well as cost-effectively. Queen’s Square was cited as having the potential to achieve about 20% more space.
2) It was suggested that there should be designated long and short-stay car parks. Whist there would be more initial cost involved, and possibly other difficulties, these could accommodate different needs and ensure turnover when and where it was most needed. This approach could also provide a source of revenue.
3) Automated signage systems, as operated in Norwich and other large towns, could help with traffic congestion. (Though it was acknowledged that this might not be the best solution for Attleborough, not least as some might find them a visual eyesore in an essentially rural town.)
4) Improved and increased public transport into the town centre, especially from villages and towns to the north of Attleborough.
5) Implementation of the “walking bus” scheme, or having school drop-off points, to help ease traffic and parking congestion associated with school hours.
6) Running a ‘Healthy Ad’ campaign to encourage less use of cars by those in and around the centre of Attleborough.
7) The possible underground expansion of the Queen’s Square car park, or even building a multi-storey car park to create more town centre parking, might be longer term solutions, bearing in mind the planned expansion. However, a combination of public opposition and sheer expense meant that these were unlikely to be realistic solutions in the immediate future.
The students’ concluded that there was clearly already a car parking problem in Attleborough, which was likely to be exacerbated by the projected town growth. They therefore felt that a sensible long term solution should be the main focus, whilst maintaining a sensitive approach to the needs and concerns of the local community, both current and future.
Members then discussed some of the key points arising from the presentation, which they acknowledged as playing a very useful role in their intelligence-gathering and review process.
It was clear that the combination of the one way system, school traffic, through-lorries, as well as the impact of the level crossing, meant that Attleborough faced some unique local congestion problems, especially at key times of the day. Most of these would need to be factored-in to any proposals as they were unlikely to change for the better in the immediate future.
A Member reported that the flexi-bus scheme serving the northern villages operated only during a limited time span during the school term. However, flexi-bus schemes had proved a vital link between rural communities, since many of the main bus routes run by NCC had been discontinued over recent years as they were no longer economically viable.
Another Member pointed out that the flexi bus scheme in Dereham had expanded over recent years, to serve a wider part of the community. It could be anticipated, therefore, that as Attleborough grew, then so would a suitable network of local transport.
However, it was clear that, aside from future plans, increased town centre parking and an adequate turnover of spaces were vital in terms of supporting both the business community and all those who wanted to visit and access the town centre facilities. Also that sensible arrangements needed to be in place to accommodate commuters and those looking to park for longer periods.
The campaigns based on encouraging people (especially school children) to walk, might be worth following up as they could have a positive impact on traffic congestion and parking issues at specific times of the day. However, it was felt that these might only have a limited effect unless they really ‘took off’ and became very popular, not least because of parental concerns over safety etc.
With respect to possibly re-designing the Queen’s Square car park to produce more spaces, this was certainly felt to be worth further consideration. Some trees would need to be removed, but these could be replaced. A new design could also produce more open space from a monitoring (i.e. safety) perspective. However, local flooding issues meant that some Members were sceptical about how realistic an underground car park might be for that site.
The Chairman ended the discussion by thanking the students once again for their helpful input and contribution to the Council’s Review.