Wednesday, 13 December 2017

Parking ban to reduce pollution set to be trialled

PARKING in two of Watlington’s main roads is set to be banned on a trial basis to see if it improves air quality.

The move is despite opposition by the parish council and residents who say it could increase the risk of accidents and mean there is too little parking space in the town.

South Oxfordshire District Council wants to create a “freight clearway” in Couching Street and Shirburn Street by banning parking at peak times to stop congestion.

It included the initiative in its draft low emissions strategy, which has undergone public consultation, and now its general licensing committee has recommended that the trial goes ahead.

The full council was due to make the final decision last night (Thursday).

Watlington Parish Council says that removing the parking spaces could compromise the safety of pedestrians as the parked cars encourage drivers passing through the town to slow down.

Council chairman Ian Hill said: “We have said several times that really we want to see the evidence that this is going to work. A trial is one way of doing it but my concern is once the trial is in place it will be difficult to remove.

“At the moment we have no evidence that this will not actually cause total gridlock or, in any event, make the congestion far worse at the town hall, where there is a pinch point.”

The parking ban was one of a number of suggestions made by Reading consultants Ricardo Energy for the district council in 2015.

Other proposals included having clearer signage and more patrols using automatic number plate recognition technology and introducing tougher enforcement of the town’s 7.5-tonne weight limit.

A report to the licensing committee said the proposed parking ban attracted a lot of comments from residents during the public consultation.

It said: “In Watlington 66 per cent of people interviewed during the door-to-door surveys said they disagreed with the proposal to remove the on-street parking. These people cited the loss of residents’ on-street parking and the fear of increased traffic speeds as reasons for their opposition.

“These views were echoed in surveys completed at a drop-in event and online, where 78 per cent of people said they disagreed with the proposal.

“People were concerned that traffic speed would increase and result in a greater risk of accidents. They also thought that alternative parking would be needed.

“If the decision is taken to trial these schemes, before implementation we will investigate them further and, where possible, mitigate against the concerns raised.

Councillor Anna Badcock, Watlington’s representative on the district council, said rsearch show the parking ban was the only option likely to have an effect on air pollution.

“The implementation of a trial by Oxfordshire County Council is the only way to move forward and I hope that all the local concerns are included and considered,” she said.

“I have on several occasions throughout the process raised the concerns of the local people regarding this proposed option.”

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