Council affirms commitment to free 24/7 parking across West Oxfordshire
West Oxfordshire’s Cabinet has re-affirmed the Council’s commitment to providing free car parking in a strategy to cater for increased demand and improve parking facilities longer-term.
The Cabinet has today (Wednesday 14 November) given the green light to the first phase of a Parking Strategy for Witney Town Centre, which highlights the importance of free parking to the local economy and sets out how to help tackle a rising demand for spaces.
Significant improvements have already been made to parking in the town centre in recent years, including the construction of a new 590-space multi-storey car park at the Marriots Walk shopping parade which opened in 2009, the introduction of a civil parking enforcement and electronic messaging signs to help with traffic management.
However, it is estimated that around 100,000 people visit the town centre each week and a review into parking has revealed that demand for off-street parking is rising by 5% every year.
In particular, there is an increase in demand for short-stay spaces, fuelled by successful retail development including the opening of Marriotts Walk shopping parade three years ago and a more recent extension to the Woolgate Shopping Centre.
No changes will be made to the overall number of short stay (1,387) and long stay (408) spaces in the town centre but the strategy sets out to reduce pressure in the car parks where demand is highest, to improve availability of spaces during weekdays. It also recognises the need for longer-term planning to address the demand on parking, with Witney earmarked for further growth.
The strategy includes plans and a pilot scheme from early next year to:
Ease pressure on the heavily used Woolgate Centre Car Park and help meet the demand for short-stay parking there – by making all of its 853 spaces short-stay (up to 3 hours) and moving its 144 long-stay (9-hour) parking spaces to the Marriotts Close Multi-Storey.
Better utilise the top two floors of Marriotts Close Multi-Storey by changing spaces from 5 to 9-hour limits, Monday to Friday – accommodating long-stay parking from the Woolgate Centre. The time limit will remain unchanged for the rest of the multi-storey (up to 3 hours).
Keep the temporary Woodford Way Car Park – and its 264, 12-hour spaces for long-stay parking until an alternative solution is found to meet demand.
Investigate a ‘commuted sum policy’ to enable the Council to raise investment towards parking improvements and possibly more spaces - this would require any future developers wishing to build commercial, retail or housing development to contribute towards costs of improvements.
Cllr David Harvey, Cabinet Member for Environment, said: “We are very proud to be the only council in Oxfordshire to provide free 24/7 parking across all of our car parks for the benefit of our local economy, visitors and residents, and this Parking Strategy very clearly sets out our continuing commitment to doing this.
“It is fantastic that so many people want to come to Witney, especially at a time when other market towns are struggling, and we have already greatly improved parking facilities in the town. However, we recognise the need to cater for growing demand and this parking strategy will provide a stepping stone to realising the longer-term measures needed to accommodate future parking needs.
“This first phase supports greater availability of short-stay parking and this will help to further support local retailers. We will be working closely with the local shopping centres, businesses and other interested parties to ensure that we move forward in the best possible way for Witney’s town centre.”
The strategy has been welcomed by local businesses, including Witney Chamber of Trade and Commerce.
Chairman Lesley Semaine said: “We wholeheartedly give our backing to this strategy and appreciate the support from the council. It is great to know that it is looking ahead to the future and businesses will appreciate the commitment to free parking.
“Witney is a bustling, vibrant town and the car parks, particularly the Woolgate, do get very busy. The freeing up of short-stay spaces will help to keep the flow moving, so this is welcomed as a first step. We look forward to working with the council as it develops the strategy and would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who supports Witney and the businesses here.”
The strategy, which takes into account recommendations in the Portas Report into the future of the High Street and the Federation of Small Businesses Review into Parking, will start in 2013. Changes to the long-stay parking arrangements will be on a trial basis for up to 12 months and kept under review.
The Witney Parking Strategy (Phase One) can be viewed in full online as part of the reports from today’s Cabinet meeting at www.westoxon.gov.uk/witneyparkingstrategy
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