Sunday, 29 March 2020

Village parking overhaul ‘will make problem worse’

CAMPAIGNERS who are opposed to an overhaul of parking in Whitchurch high street have suggested an alternative.

They fear that a scheme put forward by a volunteer group supervised by the parish council would be more likely to push the village’s problems elsewhere rather than solve them.

The traffic and parking group proposes creating 24 spaces in five separate blocks between the top of High Street and the “narrows” near the Ferryboat restaurant.

There would be double yellow lines outside these areas where currently drivers can park where they like.

The scheme was drawn up with professional advice and was supported by more than 90 per cent of the 50 or so people who took part in a public consultation exercise last month.

But the opponents, who are led by former parish councillor Caroline Leadbeater-Hart, say this would simply encourage more parking on side streets and take away spaces used by residents, many of whom don’t have drives. They also claim it would increase traffic speeds in the village wheareas currently drivers are forced to slow down in order to pass one another.

Instead they say the only changes should be adding more priority signs, upgrading the existing advisory white lines to double yellows and creating a passing place with room for four cars.

They also want a strategy for the village as a whole and an assessment of future traffic needs, potentially including:

• Charging points for electric cars.

• A 20mph speed limit.

• A residents’ permit parking scheme for which enforcement could be guaranteed.

They also say the £21,620 that the traffic group’s plan would cost would be better spent on road safety measures, such as raising the pavement outside the Ferryboat and installing bollards and a zebra crossing. They want the group to publish the data backing up its proposal and for a public meeting to be held to discuss the issue with parish councillors present.

Mrs Leadbeater-Hart, who oversaw a private meeting attended by about 15 residents last week, told the Henley Standard: “We want to work with the parish council on this as we appreciate the work they’ve put in but we think their suggestions could be improved.

“We also think the money could be better spent on safety improvements. The proposal sets out to improve traffic flows but doesn’t address safety concerns, for example, the pavement near the Ferryboat is level with the road and people have been clipped by passing traffic.

“The council chairman Jim Donahue has been in touch and I have faith that they’ll listen and act in the village’s best interests.”

Parish councillor Rachel Hatcher, who is a member of the traffic group, said: “We’ve opened up an informal public consultation for precisely the reason that people’s opinions and feedback can be taken into account.

“It’s exactly what we need to do and I’m in agreement that we need to listen to people’s concerns.” Will Barclay, who chairs the traffic group, said: “People’s concerns will be taken into account, although most people who attended our consultation were in favour.

“We are trying to solve a very real problem, which has been a long-standing concern for many villagers, and have spent an inordinate amount of time on this.

“It will address a range of other problems, including air pollution, which in summer is so bad that you can wipe it from your windowsill.

“We haven’t drawn it up by ourselves but have worked closely with both Oxfordshire County Council and professional consultants who have a good deal of experience and expertise in these matters and know what’s needed to get the highways authority’s acceptance.”

Parking and pedestrian safety were among the biggest issues raised when a survery of villagers was carried out in 2019 to help create the village plan.

The traffic group’s plan would have to go through formal consultation overseen by the county council before it could be enacted.

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