Saturday, 05 December 2020

Village shops ‘hit by lack of parking space’

CAR parking in Sonning Common should be reviewed urgently, says a parish councillor.

CAR parking in Sonning Common should be reviewed urgently, says a parish councillor.

Leigh Rawlins wants more spaces for drivers to park in order to help village traders and alleviate congestion in Wood Lane.

Speaking at a council meeting, he said the problem would only become worse with the prospect of 152 new homes being built in Sonning Common over the next 14 years.

He said: “We have just had a very successful set of public neighbourhood plan meetings but we dare not forget that the village centre is at the very heart of our community. If sclerotic parking kills the retail and service heart, what will the future hold for the rest of the body of our settlement? Parking is not only bad but about to get much worse.”

There are currently 31 spaces behind the village hall and the One Stop shop but Cllr Rawlins believes more are needed following the expansion of the Co-op.

He claimed there were often 40 cars parked in Wood Lane during the day and said many commuters used the road to park. The spaces outside the shops were used for inconsiderate “guerilla parking” rather than for deliveries.

Cllr Rawlins added: “Because of our ‘rural’ location we are served by very large, rigid articulated delivery vehicles for which the current design of our centre does not make provision.

“Our huge local buses struggle to navigate through the train crash that they find and try to stay on schedule from Kingwood to Mortimer and back again.”

Cllr Rawlins said that with an increase in capacity on the Great Western rail services and a major regeneration project in north Reading, the village would attract more commuters.

He said: “It seems obvious that these developments will draw in more commuting from the wider district and more park and ride parking in our centre. Even if it were only 20 cars in Wood Lane it would have a huge impact. The village centre is not fit for purpose either now or for the fast-arriving future.”

Cllr Rawlins suggested that an acre of unused land to the south-east of Wood Lane could be used to park up to 120 cars, although only a fraction of this number was required, and to use a compulsory purchase order if necessary.

He called on South Oxfordshire District Council to use its capital reserves of £37 million to help, saying it had categorised Sonning Common as one of the four most sustainable large villages but had not built a car park in the village — unlike in the other three places, Goring, Benson and Wheatley.

Cllr Rawlins added: “Our centre serves a vastly greater number of people than any of these by a long way. Sonning Common health centre has nearly 8,500 registered patients and yet we are unique among the largest district service centres in not having been provided with a district council car park.

“The district council asks us to take on development responsibilities because we are judged a sustainable district centre so, that being the case, it owes us some obligations to protect and retain our sustainable centre.”

Councillor Paul Harrison, who represents Sonning Common on the district council, agreed there was a parking problem but said his council’s policy was to impose charges to fund car parks.

He said: “Even if it cost only 20p, people with natural mobility would go and park in the free car park behind the village hall so you would have to decide whether you would want to charge in there as well or offer half an hour’s free parking.”

Cllr Harrison also said the land suggested for a car park had already been proposed for housing, which led to objections because of problems with vehicle access to Wood Lane.

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