Sunday, 29 March 2020

Villagers disagree on parking revamp

PLANS for parking bays, double yellow lines and passing places in Whitchurch have divided residents.

More than 50 people attended an informal consultation meeting hosted by the village’s traffic and parking advisory group and all bar six were in favour of the idea.

But the scheme is opposed by other people, including former parish councillor Caroline Leadbeater-Hart, who says it will just move problem parking on to side streets.

The traffic group, which consists of volunteers and is overseen by the parish council, proposes creating 24 spaces in five separate blocks between the top of High Street and the “narrows” near the Ferryboat restaurant.

No parking would be allowed outside these areas whereas currently drivers may park wherever they like. The double yellow lines would probably be narrow to reduce the visual impact.

The council will now seek the approval of Oxfordshire County Council, the highways authority, which would conduct a formal consultation.

The group says the problem is partly caused by commuters catching the train to London parking in Whitchurch to avoid charges at Pangbourne station. In some cases, cars are left for days on end by people travelling overseas.

If the new bays are approved, they will still be open to all but a residents’ permit scheme could be introduced if South Oxfordshire District Council agrees to take over responsibility for enforcement from Thames Valley Police.

Mrs Leadbeater-Hart says the scheme would simply take spaces from residents who don’t have their own driveways and drivers would just park in Eastfield Lane, Manor Road, Harwick Road and by the toll bridge instead. The first of these is the route to Whitchurch Primary School and has no pavement for much of its length.

Mrs Leadbeater-Hart says the money for the project would be better spent on improving pavements or other amenities. She is encouraging critics to attend a meeting at a private address at 8pm on Monday to discuss the plans.

The traffic group says more than 90 per cent of villagers regarded traffic as a priority issue when the council consulted on the new Whitchurch village plan.

It sought professional advice on the parking scheme and there were rarely more than 24 cars parked on the high street anyway.

A spokesman said: “The objectors’ points can be countered, although many are setting hypothetical scenarios.

“Furthermore, no positive alternatives are offered to improve traffic flow, get parking into order and restrict commuter parking.

“If we don’t make a start the traffic situation won’t improve and with increased building north of our village... it will only get worse. These measures can start to make a difference.”

The group may also ask the county council to introduce a 20mph limit or other traffic-calming measures as at least four parked cars have been severely damaged in crashes over the past two years. This would require data evidence.

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