Oakham Town Partnership (OTP) recently met with representatives from Rutland County Council (RCC) to discuss parking in Oakham. The meeting resulted from a request from RCC for consultation with retailers on the proposed changes to parking charges. RCC had proposed that the first hour would be free but any loss in revenue would have to be reclaimed by increasing the cost of longer term parking so that the overall effect would be cost neutral.
Parking in OakhamWhen the Partnership consulted with retailers the view emerged that the proposal did not provide an incentive for shoppers to stay in the town but encouraged them to ‘rush in and rush out’. There was also a negative effect on the retailers and their staff who parked all day long.
The County Council wrote a Strategic Parking Review in March 2012, which can be found on their website. They also commissioned a Parking Sufficiency Survey by Savills published in 2010 and amended in 2012 which can be found at this link.
RCC stated that the parking capacity in Oakham is just about adequate and rarely exceeds 75% of overall capacity, whilst off-street parking can be up to 90% at peak times. The survey was carried out on a Wednesday market day but OTP thought a more appropriate day to be a Saturday and although the capacity may be adequate at the moment with 1100 homes being built on the Hawksmead estate the capacity would soon be exceeded.RCC felt that residents parking bays could provide some additional parking slots during the day when they were not being used by the resident. RCC would also investigate better signage at car parks to direct people to alternative sites such as Catmose Car Park which was underutilised at weekends. Another possibility was the construction of a multi-story car park on the present Westgate Car Park.
RCC reported that there was some evidence of resident’s parking bays being used illegally. Parking in Station Road was presently unlimited but this could be changed and restricted to 4 hours and provide a better turnover of spaces.
Impact of RCC Staff Parking
Staff parking in Catmose had been restricted for some time which meant a large number of Council staff finding alternative free parking around the town. This had caused congestion in certain areas i.e. Stamford Road, Derwent Drive/Braunston Road and Uppingham Road at Swooning Bridge. There had been complaints from residents due to increased congestion and in some instances the parking had created dangerous traffic situations. OTP pointed out that RCC had not resolved the problem and by continually painting double yellow lines had just moved the problem elsewhere rather than resolving it. RCC were constructing a 40 space car park extension to Catmose that would hopefully help to alleviate some of the problem.
Park and Ride
Although an informal park and ride for staff had been started at the Coop by using the Oakham Hopper there was no intention to start a permanent one as it was considered to be uneconomical.
RCC stated that parking fees were based on usage and aimed to be cost neutral. OTP raised the anomaly of the higher parking charge for Wednesday market days which was apparently historic with no one appearing to know the reason for it. RCC were advised that this had a negative effect on visitors and shoppers to the town and worked against attracting people to stay longer and shop. RCC agreed to review this payment.
RCC thought that their proposal for the first hour free in car parks was requested by the retailers. Few, if any, retailers were consulted and no retailers on OTP knew about it. Retailers considered it to work against attracting people to linger in the town and was not a benefit. A number of retailers had lost sales because customers suddenly had to rush back to their cars as time was running out. Retailers generally thought that pay on exit barriers would serve the town better than pre pay. Due to the consultation the first hour free in car parks had not been implemented.
There was some discussion about the relevance of Long and Short Stay car parks and OTP will look at the matter further. It was felt that a complete review of parking charges was required which OTP was prepared to assist with.
Alternative Payment Systems
It was the OTP view that pay and display didn’t work to the benefit of Oakham and pay on exit would be an improvement. RCC were considering payment by mobile phone (Ringo) a system that sends a message to a mobile phone when the time is running out and further payment can then be made without returning to the car.
Retailers were pleased that RCC were now consulting with them through OTP and welcomed this initiative. OTP considered that consultation needs to be more embracing by giving sufficient time for a robust process and time for a considered response. Use of social media had also proven successful for obtaining the public view for the Aldi planning application. Information about various aspects of town centre management would also be featured on the OTP and RCC websites.
OTP agreed to formulate proposals for off-street parking charges following further consultation with retailers and residents but this would take time.
In the meantime RCC would consider pay on exit for all car parks and would include OTP on the list of statutory consultees.