Wiltshire Publications

Free parking in the town reduced to one hour

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TOWN councillors have voted to recommend reducing their offer of free parking in the town from two hours to one at a meeting of the highways, planning, and development committee this Monday.

Mayor, cllr Sheila Kimmins.

This decision followed on from a parking survey created by the council to find out residents’ views on whether they should continue to pay for two hours’ free parking, reduce it to one hour or take away all free parking in the town.

A final decision is due to be made by the town council at a meeting on Monday 4th July. 

Wiltshire Council implemented changes from 1st April, and the second round, which included raising car parking charges by 10p hour, is yet to be implemented. Once it comes into operation, it could cost Westbury Town Council approximately £42,000 against a budget of £35,000 to continue to pay for two hours of free parking in all three of Westbury’s car parks. 

Councillors debated this issue at a meeting of the highways, planning and development committee on Monday 20th June. 

Cllr Gordon King said, “The first two questions should have had been much clearer – we should have asked people directly if they wanted two hours, one hour, or no free parking at all. Instead, we have confused results as people have obviously answered all three questions. 

“People have quite clearly said that they don’t want us to take away free parking. The results for the one-hour question were very narrow, and the option to keep the two hours has the wider margin, even if it is by 90 or so votes. I think a majority of people would like us to continue as we are now.” 

Lack of infrastructure

Cllr Mark Bailey said, “Our aspiration is to get more people using public transport and get them cycling more – unfortunately none of that infrastructure is in position yet so we have to be realistic and this council should provide some element of free parking.” 

Chair of the committee, cllr Duncan Hamilton-Sheen said, “I wasn’t happy with this survey. Q1, ‘should we have free parking’ had 428 responses and Q3, ‘should we pay for it’ – 75 people of those 428 changed their tune when they realised the town council would be paying for it.” 

Cllr Ward Jones proposed an alternative suggestion. He said, “I think we should go for one hour of free parking as it meets the needs of those popping into a shop or office in town, which I think is the main need. As some said in the survey, they would be happy to pay to stay for longer if the first hour is free. Two hours is an unnecessary extra spend from a limited council budget and we have a responsibility to manage our financial assets.” 

Cllr King said in response, “The survey was statistically representative of a certain view, so you can’t just ignore it. The whole reason we started providing two hours of free parking was to protect what is a very fragile commercial base and to encourage people to attend more events in the town centre. In terms of budget, ours is healthy and it can well sustain this and the rise in Wiltshire Council’s hourly rate parking charges is regrettable but manageable for this council and won’t take away from any other projects.” 

‘One hour free isn’t sufficient’

Mayor, cllr Sheila Kimmins said, “I support what cllr King has just said. We are trying to encourage more and more people to come to the market and visit the shops – to do that in an hour isn’t sufficient.” 

Councillors then went to a vote, with the majority deciding to reduce the town council’s offer of free parking from two hours to one hour. 

Some of the comments from residents who wanted the town council to continue their offer of two hours free parking included, “As I don’t live in Westbury I always drive and park in the high street car park. I swim twice a week as there is no car park at the swimming pool. By the time I have parked, gone swimming for an hour and then returned, I’m almost at the end of the two hours so I’m thankful to the council for providing this for me. This is one happy pensioner who enjoys swimming for health and exercise.” 

Another said, “We use the car park to take our three children to the library – we won’t be able to afford to take them otherwise. 

Residents agreeing to reduce the rate to one hour said, “As much as we appreciate it, it’s very expensive. I rarely stay for more than an hour, but I’d be happy to pay if I needed to stay for longer than an hour.” 

Another said, “The supermarkets locally offer an average of 90 minutes free parking in their car parks. Is this not a sensible alternative?” 

One Response to Free parking in the town reduced to one hour

  1. Russell Hawker

    June 24, 2022 at 2:40 pm

    This has all happened before.

    Last time, people gradually more and more complained about their hour running out and getting fines when they stayed too long in cafes or in barbers / hairdressers due to queues meaningnthey stayed much longer than expected. The cafe ownersd and various hairdressers /barbers pressed for 2 hours free and the town council duly obliged by putting it back to 2 hours free.

    Then Wiltshire Council, in act of extreme stupidity, actually stopped the town council from subsidising free parking at all and insisted that everyone had to pay. This resulted in virtually no-one parking in the car parks and trade in and around the High Street falling like a stone.

    WC then relented, not least because takings at their ticket machines plummeted, and Westbury Town Council went back to 2 hours parking free.

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