Agenda item

Attleborough Town Council Feedback (Agenda Item 6)

Representatives from Attleborough Town Council have been invited to outline the results of their own research into local attitudes towards car parking facilities and enforcement, and will give a verbal report.

Minutes:

The Attleborough Town Clerk presented a verbal report outlining some of the comments and complaints which the Town Council had received about parking issues in the town. 

 

She explained that the Town Council had no jurisdiction over the public car parks, but had asked for local feedback in order to be able to give some informed views to Breckland District Council as part of the latter’s Review of car parking across the district.   

 

After a recent meeting, The Town Council had resolved to investigate charging for off-street parking between 06.00 and 18.00 (excluding Sundays and Public Holidays).  It was proposed that the first two hours should be free, followed by a minimal charge for 2-4 hours, rising steeply thereafter for town centre slots.  It was hoped that this could ensure a satisfactory turnover of parking spaces, especially in the town centre. 

 

There was also concern about the relative lack of public transport which meant that an essential part of the community needed to commute by car and have easy access to the town centre.   So it was acknowledged that any proposals needed to also accommodate local employees – either by having a permit system, or a suitably sited long-term car park.

 

The Town Council had therefore sent out a newsletter to every house in the parish (approximately 4,700 copies), asking for comments and suggestions on the above proposals and concerns.

 

The Town Clerk pointed out at this stage that some of the views expressed had seemed to be more in response to press articles, which had not been entirely accurate.    However, one key finding was that commuters felt that they should not be penalised by having to pay to park.   Also, many businesses were concerned that lack of local parking was driving their customer base elsewhere.

 

Other areas which caused most comment included:

 

  • Sainsbury’s employees blocked public car parks.

 

  • Parking problems were perceived as being due to Breckland District Council’s lack of strategic town planning, with some residents having to use car parks overnight because insufficient spaces had been allocated to their homes.

 

  • That there were insufficient car parking facilities in the town and that it was impossible to find parking spaces as a shopper.

 

  • Parking charges would be detrimental to the social aspect of the town.

 

  • None of those who responded were in favour of having a multi-storey car park in Attleborough.

 

There was small support for the Town Council’s proposal for 2 hours of free parking, with a concern that shoppers might go elsewhere if charges were introduced.  There was also limited support for commuters to have allocated parking, and a view that residents already pay enough for services through their Council tax. 

 

Members then discussed the findings, commenting that if over 4,700 leaflets had been distributed, then the actual number of responses fed back to the Town Council were surprisingly small.    The Town Clerk concurred, adding that the Town Council had decided to send out leaflets as a result of the number of face-to-face comments they had been receiving. 

 

It was thought that this relatively low response might be because many local residents were sceptical about the consultation, believing that they would not have any real input into the eventual outcome.   There had been widespread feeling that the previous public meeting had been held at an inconvenient and unrealistic time for many residents.

 

The Town Clerk confirmed that they had also written to other interested parties, including Network Rail (who had not sent any response), and National Express East Anglia.    The latter leased part of the land which was currently used as a car park at the railway station (the rest of that land – currently scrub – was owned by Network Rail).   The station car park was considered to be badly laid out and suffered from overcrowding, with cars spilling over into the Football Club drive, where the Bowls Club also had parking spaces.        

 

The Town Council had also heard back from Sainsbury’s Head Office.   They said that their employees were only allowed to use the store car park if they had shifts starting before 07.00 or after 21.00.  15 spaces were provided for employees directly behind the store.  This meant that their car park was primarily for shoppers (who were also able to visit other local shops during their permitted 2-hours of free parking).   Sainsbury’s therefore felt that it was making a positive contribution towards the town’s overall parking facilities.   

 

Sainsbury’s also paid for 12 slots at the Connaught Hall car park in Station Road.   However some of their staff preferred to use the Edenside and Horsepit car parks, which were nearer the store.  

 

A survey of their employees in March 2009 had revealed that 57% drove to work and the maximum on site at any one time was 40.   This meant that the Sainsbury staff used 23 spaces each day.   Sainsbury’s therefore felt that whilst they possibly added to car parking problems in Attleborough, they were not the sole cause, and in some ways their car park actually helped support the town’s facilities. 

 

Lidl, the other major supermarket in Attleborough, permitted their shoppers to stay for a maximum of one hour.   A staff member monitored usage, not least to ensure that those parking were actually customers.   

 

The Town Council had approached Norfolk County Council (NCC) to see whether or not it would be practical to enter into some form of partnership scheme, or if NCC had any suitable land which could be developed as a car park.   However NCC had no statutory remit to provide car parking and had referred the Town Council back to Breckland District Council for further consultation.

 

Members touched again on the surprisingly low response rate to the Town Council’s call for comments.  

 

In response, the Town Clerk said that car parking in the town had been a major concern for many years, and whilst they did not maintain a specific log, they regularly took phone calls, or had people visiting them, as well as hearing from Councillors who had been approached direct by angry or frustrated local residents.  Specifically, there was dissatisfaction about the fact that there were no controls on the main street, monitoring, or traffic wardens, to ensure a sensible turnover of parking spaces.

 

The Town Clerk added that if there could be some form of agency agreement, as in Swaffham, whereby the police enforced off-street parking, while there was decriminalistation and enforcement of on-street parking, then the Town Council would be very interested in looking further into this.   

 

With regard to the turnover of parking in the town centre itself, one possible solution might be to have suitable out-of-town car parking arrangements for local employees, so that the centre would be freed-up for shoppers and visitors. 

 

A Member commented that some of the criticism which had been aimed at the District Planning Committee in terms of permitting flats to be built with insufficient car parking facilities was not entirely justified.   Whilst acknowledging that “half a parking space per flat “ made no sense at all from a local perspective, unfortunately this did comply with national standards because Attleborough was classed as a “rural town”.

 

The Town Clerk added that, in order to put the record straight, the Town Council had not set out by themselves to change Breckland Council’s car parking policy, but rather had acted in response to their residents’ concerns. 

 

In drawing the discussion to a close, the Chairman said that the Town Council’s findings were broadly in line with the results received from the UEA Business School students, which were to follow, and she thanked the Town Council for their contribution to the debate.