Tuesday, 29 September 2020

‘Car park’ set to be fenced off to maintain path entry

A GRASS verge in Benson routinely used by drivers to park is to be fenced off.

Benson Parish Council wants to protect the area on the northern side of the A4074 at the junction with Church Road to stop inconsiderate parking.

The land has been used as an unofficial car park for more than three years but vehicles block a footpath and a cycle path and the grass is churned up in wet weather.

Many people park there in order to visit the Waterfront Café on the other side of the road.

Residents, including people using disability scooters or with pushchairs, have complained to the council about being unable to access the paths.

The parish council is to ask Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, to carry out the work and wants a bollard to be installed that can be removed temporarily when the grass needs to be cut.

It had previously agreed to spend £5,800 to install birdsmouth fencing with a gap for cars to access the area but now says vehicles would not be able to manoeuvre properly.

Speaking at an extraordinary meeting of the council, resident Donal McGurk said it was not up to the parish council to provide parking for the café’s customers to the detriment of the village and the loss of green space.

The council should consider what villagers wanted to do with the area as it is on the southern approach to the village on the A4074 and could be made beautiful. There was other land available along the main road for use as a car park.

Mr McGurk said the entrance to the village on the A4074 from Oxford was already compromised by a McDonald’s and the BP garage and Benson shouldn’t become the “village between McDonald’s and the car park”. Dave Rushton, a member of the Benson neighbourhood plan delivery team, said another option was to formalise parking on the verge.

For this the county council would require a professional survey of the area for which the parish council would have to pay.

Installing “grasscrete” on the verge would cost about £23,000 and would provide parking spaces for eight vehicles.

Mr Rushton said the delivery team had concerns that Benson would become a park and ride hub for surrounding villages and that the verge would be overwhelmed with parking within an hour.

A three-day survey had shown that while most people who parked on the verge went to the café, some went to the Rivermead recreation area and river or got on a bus.

Vice-chairwoman Patricia Baylis said she did not want to formalise parking on the verge as it would not solve the problem and would cost money.

Councillor Tom Stevenson said the Trust for Oxfordshire’s Environment had offered money to the Benson Nature Group to create a flower bed and the verge could be used if parking was banned.

Mike Chawner spoke on behalf of the residents of Churchfield Lane, an unadopted road from Church Road to the A4074 bus layby.

He said the exit on to the A4074 was compromised by vehicles parked in the layby, causing poor visibility, and drivers regularly parked over the fire hydrant.

The council will also ask the county council about using the bus pull-in next to the verge.

It was suggested there could a disabled parking space and three drop-off and pick-up spaces with the rest of the area having double yellow lines.

There would also be bike racks. “Keep clear” markings would be needed at the end of Churchfield Lane.

Plans for a toucan crossing on the A4074 nearby have been approved by the county council but there is no agreement on how to meet the estimated cost of £130,000.

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