Tuesday, August 22, 2017

News: Free parking "not the answer" for revitalising Rotherham

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Local businesses have been asking for free parking across Rotherham town centre but those behind the masterplan for the area insist that it is not the key to success.

Instead, the masterplan sets out that the answer is building and enhancing the quality of the destination and the town centre as an attraction, and by creating an intelligent and competitive parking regime.

The recently published masterplan places a greater emphasis on town centre living and leisure, as opposed to traditional retail uses, in continuing the regeneration of Rotherham town centre. It is set for approval by the Council's cabinet in September.

A detailed parking strategy has been prepared to underpin and support the plan which was developed for the Council by WYG Group and Lambert Smith Hampton and includes key catalyst projects such as the proposed £43m leisure development with a cinema, hotel and a 300 space car park on Forge Island (cgi, above).

The masterplan states: "Whilst the sustainable modes of travel are promoted the role of car parking in supporting the success and sustainability of town centre and its businesses is confirmed as vitally important.

"Free parking giving access to a poor town centre is not the key to success. An improved town centre offer, with an intelligent and competitive parking regime is. Parking controls should be geared to encouraging people to use the town centre as conveniently and cost effectively as possible."

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Parking charges increased in Rotherham town centre in 2016 to help fill a deficit in the Council's parking services budget. Councillors wanted an option to increase charges on the basis of free (off street) parking being provided on Saturdays but this was not acceded to.

The latest plans do put forward some ideas for the Council, but free parking "across the board" is not one of them. In 2015, Council bosses estimated that this would "probably" boost trade but if it was introduced, a £400,000 surplus generated for the Council would turn into a deficit of approximately £500,000.

Ideas include operating a "hub" of public car parks with the same pricing structure, additional time-limited free parking in car parks where there is low occupancy (as used in the "red zone" on Forge Island), and barrier controlled entry and exit car parks so that people are not forced to leave the town when their ticket expires. Pay on exit barrier controlled parking reduces the risk of enforcement and people only pay for what they use.

Another idea is for additional on-street parking in central areas to provide easy access for shoppers and visitors. The balance of pedestrian and vehicular access in areas around Howard Street, Effingham Street and College Street means that areas are cut-off from passing movements of people and motorists, particularly in the evening. Allowing cars on the pedestrianised areas out of shopping-hours and the introduction of 20-30 new spaces is put forward.

The plans state: "Proposals for car parking in the short-term should help to support increased use of the town centre. This will directly to answer retailers' requests for interim measures to support vitality and viability. This could involve the Council taking a flexible approach to their car parks and the charging / ticketing regimes.

"The answer to Rotherham's future is not however free parking. The answer is building and enhancing the quality of the destination and the town centre as an attraction.

"In the longer term, the aim is to ensure safe, welcoming and user friendly town centre car parks and parking options, which are convenient, competitively priced and which encourage use of the town centre through the day and into the evening."

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The plans also show an oversupply of parking now, and with planned developments. Even as existing surface car parks make way for proposed development this "will in part address the present over supply (and underuse) of many car parks."

The plans add: "To ensure businesses continue to trade well and benefit from adequate car parking in the town centre, we have assessed the implications of blocks of parking being removed from the supply at various times. Our conclusions are that there will always be supply to meet present and future demands and that the interim arrangements will be sufficient to ensure the town centre continues to trade."

Studies show the existing off street parking provision of 2,374 spaces dipping below 2,000 in 2019 before returning to 2,300 as new car parks are created by the end of 2020. Car park maximum occupancy levels are shown as 1,415 in 2017 and 1,727 in the year 2028.

For example: "Whilst there may be some inconvenience with parking at Forge Island being lost whilst development is under construction, parking will be available in the refurbished Interchange."

Images: WYG / RMBC


3 comments:

Rob Foulds August 22, 2017 at 4:39 PM  

And I'll still be shopping at Parkgate - oh! where the parking is free.

Mr me August 23, 2017 at 12:31 PM  

I work all over country and rarely if ever come across free parking,its the norm to pay.Saying that Rotherham actually needs some shops/attractions actually worth going there for !

Nigel Simpson,  September 15, 2017 at 9:06 PM  

Free parking is not the problem - unless people actually want
to go to the shops that are available.
So if retail world was in the town centre, people would go,
and would get free parking...
The solution is build it and they will come.
But charge them and they will leave again.

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