Passionate parking debate for Haslemere via @GetSurrey

GetSurrey cover Haslemere parking this week: Passionate parking debate for Haslemere residents.

FRUSTRATED residents in Haslemere have accused Surrey County Council officers “in their ivory towers in Kingston” of failing to listen to the community’s fears over the issue of parking in the town.

More than 200 people gathered at Haslemere Hall for a Waverley local committee (LAC) meeting last Thursday (January 24), at which members voted on the introduction of parking permits, yellow lines and other controls in dozens of roads.

During the three-hour meeting, councillors systematically worked through the agenda of proposals, considering a small number of streets at a time.

A total of 382 letters, including some in support, were received after details of the proposals were published last October.

The majority of officers’ proposals were approved by councillors and some residents were satisfied with the outcome for their individual area.

For Kings Road, members approved plans to introduce residents-only parking from Monday-Friday, 8.30am-5.30pm for much of the road.

Plans for the High Street drew the most attention, with observers trying to talk to members and several shouts from the crowd.

The proposals included the removal of some bays at the foot of Shepherd’s Hill and in front of Costa Coffee, which had outraged campaigners who said the reduced parking would ruin business for High Street shops.

The bays are currently painted at an angle and the proposals detailed changing these to parallel parking spaces, in the interest of road safety.

Under an existing Traffic Regulation Order (TRO), these bays should be turned into parallel bays.

But in a surprising turn of events, the committee members voted against the officers’ recommendation, and against the guidance of the TRO, to maintain the bays as they are.

The vote was met by thunderous applause from the public.

However, members of the campaign group which has monitored the parking negotiations closely since early last year, were largely disappointed with the meeting.

Nikki Barton, of Scotland Lane, who heads the campaign group, said: “While we welcome some of the decisions, in particular their vote to scrap plans to take away eight to 10 parking spaces in the town centre, anyone who witnessed the shambolic meeting can only conclude that the LAC structure is not fit for purpose.

“How can we have confidence in a decision-making process that gives voting rights to a body of councillors from other towns, who in the main appear totally ill-informed and, worse still, disinterested as to the impact of the decisions they take?

“Our faith is further undermined when Surrey County Council officers doggedly defend elements of their proposals worked up in their ivory towers in Kingston without even the most basic supporting data or understanding of how parking in our town works.

“After a full year of the current round of focused discussion of parking in Haslemere, it beggars belief that Surrey County Council’s officers failed yet again to acknowledge the displacement effects of their proposals and once more ignored the opportunity to bring more creative parking solutions to the table.

“Even when it appeared that officers had got it right and had decided not to press ahead with residents-only parking in Courts Hill Road, the committee overturned their decision, voting on the hoof to divide the road and create 17 residents-only permit parking spaces in Courts Hill Road West.

“Only one councillor, Peter Martin, had the courtesy to reply to our invitation to meet before the meeting. A total of 17 others did not.

“The message was clear. Surrey County Council is still failing to engage corroboratively with us and the benefits and spirit of localism have yet to be felt in Haslemere.”

Committee chairman Pat Frost said: “We have been dealing with this particular issue for over 12 months.

“It is not the first time the committee has met to deal with it.

“Unfortunately, it is one of those situations where you are never going to be able to please everyone.”