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Parking is costing bath business dear, according to law firm Withy King

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Written by:   | Posted 05-December-2013 11:06

Nearly two-thirds of businesses in Bath are being hampered by parking problems in the city, a new survey suggests.

The cost of parking, the lack of spaces, the limitations of Bath’s three park and ride sites, the state of public transport and the idea of a car-free city centre have all been criticised by business owners in a survey, conducted by law firm Withy King.

Of the 160-plus members of the business community who responded to the firm’s Bigger Picture survey,   72 per cent said they believed Bath’s parking provision deterred shoppers and 76 per cent that Bath’s parking provision deterred them from coming into the city in their leisure time. Overall, 63 per cent of businesses blamed parking for creating difficult trading conditions.

Chair of the city’s Federation of Small Businesses branch, Angela MacAusland, said it was one of the biggest issues facing the city’s businesses.

“Some cities allow residents to park free for 20 minutes to allow them to visit local shopping streets. What we are trying to say is we don’t want people going to out of city shopping centres because it’s easier and free to park.”

Manager of the Bath Business Improvement District, Andrew Cooper, said the city needed a comprehensive transport strategy.

“The key to success is looking at the issue of traffic flow and management in its entirety which needs to include better signage before arriving in the city, easier ways to pay to park to encourage longer dwell times, more capacity for park and ride, improved HGV and servicing arrangements and improved quality pedestrianisation down the main spine of the city that reflects our World Heritage status.” 

Managing director of finance firm Money Wise, Malcolm Coury, said staff were walking for more than half an hour to make use of what limited free parking the outskirts of Bath offered.

“I’m sure this is a nuisance for the residents in those areas. It seems to me totally arrogant to stop people from parking in Bath when they work in Bath.

“Likewise, customers find it very difficult to find somewhere to park and when they do they will often put a minimum payment in because of the expense. This results in them leaving meetings early to top up their parking meter and they then return or sometimes get hit with a very expensive parking ticket.”

Support for a new park and ride site to the east of the city clearly emerges in the survey, along with cheaper parking and cheaper bus fares.

Business champion and director of Business West in Bath, Ian Bell, said the new site was the number one priority.

“I hope that there will be broad support and that it can come into play as soon as possible.”

Alex Schlesinger, who has run the Old Bank Antiques Centre in London Road for 18 years said of B&NES Council: “They seem to think people will just cycle round with bags on their handlebars.”

Paul Pearson,  owner of the franchise for the two Bath  McDonald’s restaurants in SouthGate and Weston Lock Retail Park, said: “I believe wholeheartedly that the council dogma of decreasing parking spaces is killing the retail of the town centre. Why queue for hours and pay over the odds to park when there are huge amounts of free or cheaper parking in Bristol, Cribbs, Swindon - or just get on the internet?”

Chairman of the Bath Restaurants Association Jonathan Overton, said the success of Bath hinged on convenient access.

“If we don’t continue to put visitors first, we will realise just how many local jobs depended on them.”

Part 2: 

A Bath estate agent says that not all businesses can rely on public transport.

Carey Gilliland, partner at Madison Oakley estate agents, which has branches in Moorland Road and George Street, said some professions needed easy and reliable access: “We certainly see a greater willingness from our clients to visit our Moorland Road office rather than our George Street office on the simple basis of parking.

“The park and ride provision at peak times is probably still inadequate. The Victoria Park metering was one serious issue. I don’t know why they didn’t turn it into limited free parking rather than just metering all the time.

“It can be very difficult. I remember ringing the council once to ask about parking permits for our business to be told we should be using park and ride. For someone who picks up clients and goes to various locations around the city, it’s impractical.

“We have to plan a journey and plan our diaries and think carefully to allow for travel time and to spend a certain amount of time driving round and round looking for the very few unregulated spaces - but that’s life working in a city centre.”

He added: We need more cheaper public transport.” If I’m going to get the bus into town from Oldfield Park it’s an awful lot of money for a ticket for such a short journey.

“We also need more park and ride provision especially on the eastern side of the city with the main route down from the motorway. Not a lot of visitors know to hang a right and head for Lansdown.”

 

Part 3:  

The chief executive of the Bath Building Society believes the city needs to strike a balance between accommodating the car and protecting the environment.

Dick Jenkins, who employs 60 people across three branches and the firm’s letting agency, said the city’s transport bosses faced some difficult decisions but said his staff struggled getting to work and that problems needed to be addressed.

“The recent restrictions in parking around Victoria Park have adversely impacted on my staff, they now have to park further away and have further to walk but I can understand that we do need to manage and restrict parking in a city as precious as Bath.

“Public transport is the most common way for staff to come to work but not everyone has the luxury of access to public transport that runs when and where they need it. Some people have to bring cars into town.

“It is a difficult challenge for the council but we need to bite the bullet and recognise the car is here to stay - in 20 years’ time people will say I can’t believe people used to be able to drive around Queen Square.”

Mr Jenkins said the council needed to act now.

“One thing we would very much welcome is even better park and ride facilities. We have the park and ride but I think we need more - the London Road needs relief.

“One thing that needs thinking about is do we have enough parking provision in Bath? I think businesses would benefit from more parking in the city, in particular there are peak times of the year when parking in the city is very difficult like Christmas.

“Visitors I know are put off from coming to Bath because of the parking. People will go to Cribbs Causeway because parking in Bath is considered a nightmare.”

Part 4: 

The latest places identified as possible locations for a new park and ride site to the east of Bath will be revealed in the spring.

Bath and North East Somerset Council is already expanding its three existing park and ride sites but has repeated its commitment to finding a fourth site.

Details about where a park and ride site could go will be at the centre of a public consultation exercise next year, with the authority keeping its cards close to its chest until then.

The best place to put a fourth park and ride site has been debated for more than 20 years. Sites previously considered included Bath Rugby’s Lambridge training ground, Bathampton Meadows and land in Wiltshire.

B&NES came close to finalising a £6 million park and ride scheme at Bathampton Meadows in 2011 but a change in administration saw the Liberal Democrats shelve the project.

Earlier this year the Federation of Bath Residents’ Associations (Fobra) appealed to the council to build the facility as soon as possible.

B&NES said comments made by businesses for the Withy King survey would be taken into consideration in its transport thinking.

A spokesman added the authority was keen to find a solution to a raft of transport issues facing Bath, including HGVs using the city as a through route to the south coast, and coach parking.

“The council welcomes surveys which provide insight into people’s opinions and will consider these as part of the development of our forthcoming transport strategy.”

The spokesman questioned whether the survey was authoritative.

“The way in which questions are phrased can lead people to answers, as may asking whether people would like something for free or posing a question where they are likely to have anecdotal knowledge.

“Unfortunately, this survey falls into some of these traps, making it somewhat misleading and it is therefore impossible to draw really valid conclusions on the parking situation in Bath. We do however understand the general concerns about parking and traffic congestion in the city. These are issues which we are determined to resolve in order to create the conditions for economic growth, tackle congestion and improve air quality.”

Bus firm First has said it will be holding a consultation exercise next year into the cost of travel around Bath, following a similar exercise which has brought down some fares in Bristol.

It said it had made significant improvements to the quality of park and ride buses, and increased frequency at busy periods such as the run-up to Christmas.

“We recognise the views that have also been shared regarding the cost of travel in the city. We have already committed to look at the cost of bus travel in and around Bath and we will start consulting the public on this matter early in the new year.”

Part 5:  

Suggestions of how to improve Bath’s parking problems from the survey:

Make park and ride cheaper – suggestions included reduce cost or charge  per car rather than per person

Create a traffic free zone in the centre 8am-noon

Reduce or eliminate evening parking charges

Provide free parking in certain areas

More parking spaces in city

Cheaper bus fares (like in Bristol) and more flexible bus services

Lower parking charges for businesses and traders

Park and ride should run later

More pedestrian friendly city centre

B&NES residents get 50 per cent discount on  public transport and on costs of parking

Get rid of bus gates

 

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