Transcription: Wey Hill car park item at last week’s @WaverleyBC’s Executive meeting

At last week’s Executive meeting, the Wey Hill Fairground car park was discussed as Item 15 of the agenda. We hope this transcription is helpful.

Cllr Nicholas Holder (representing The Chairman of The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee, Cllr Jim Edwards):

The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee called this here item in in response to representations by The Haslemere Society, Haslemere Town Council and traders of Wey Hill.

Car parking in Haslemere has been a hot potato for at least the last two years, with so many different issues, such as meters in Haslemere High Street, Resident Only Parking bays, together with increased car parking charges in the council’s existing car parks.  With so many balls in the air, with future plans for a multi-storey car park at Haslemere station, plans for 80 extra car parking spaces at the bus depot in Jewsons’ yard, that more consideration should be taken as to the effect of making the Wey Hill Fairground Car Park a charged car park, and the knock-on effects of so doing.

The Committee agreed with the Portfolio Holder that the car park had to be re-surfaced, and that some sort of charging mechanism may be necessary to pay for it. However, the car park has been divided into two for some 20 odd years and, with a barrier and ground vehicle restriction measures being imposed dividing the two halves, so that the traders of Wey Hill were able to park their cars. However, the barrier has now broken and commuters have taken advantage of this fact and have now more or less monopolised the car park. It may be necessary when re-installing the barrier to move it 5 or 10 yards in one direction or the other.

If the car park becomes a charged car park, then where will the displaced cars go? There is experience from other parts of the borough, such as Milford, suggesting they will clog up residential roads even more than they are now, rather than pay a car parking charge.

Any decision made tonight by your Executive, Mr Chairman, may take several years to be fully implemented. The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee feels that this issue should be put out for full consultation for a period of at least six weeks to approximately the end of October so that all issues regarding car parking in Haslemere can be fully analysed and a decision is made that will be fully acceptable to both Waverley Borough Council and the people of Haslemere for the long term.

Thank you, Chairman.

Chairman Cllr Robert Knowles:

Thank you very much. Cllr Mulliner.

Cllr Stephen Mulliner:

I’m speaking on my own behalf and also as the car parking representative for Haslemere Town Council. I would like to endorse what Councillor Holder said, particularly in relation to the need for proper consultation before the Section 38 procedure is embarked upon. It is actually part of the advice given by the officers anyway. I fear if we did not do that, we’d get a swathe of letters to the inspectorate complaining about the absence of such consultation.

I think the background, which is well-known to yourself and Cllr King and Cllr Webster, is that parking in Haslemere is seen very much as one item. The fact that Surrey control the on-street parking and Waverley control the off street is frankly of no interest to them. They are concerned about the overall problem which of course, in large measure, depends upon the increased attractiveness of Haslemere station in the absence, as yet, of proper parking provision there. Anything we do is seen very much as part of the whole. One good reason for having consultation is to allow for those holistic concerns to come out.

The second is that it is believed very strongly that there is an inevitable link between resurfacing the car park and immediately charging for it. And, given the sensitivity to the displacement issue, the fact that any extra cars coming into the town or coming into the car parks have to go onto residential roads with consequential effects – which the residents do not like at all – the idea of charging any time soon on the Wey Hill car park is viewed with great concern. This is perhaps heightened by the fact that until recently we were seen to rely upon the 1993 permission from the Secretary of State and that seemed to imply that re-surfacing and charging immediately were basically one and the same decision.

I, for one, see absolutely nothing wrong with charging in due course but I would urge the Executive and then later the council to think about timing. I think if we could combine a commitment to consult with a recognition that the time to start charging for the Wey Hill car park is when we’ve got proper provision at the station, I think that would go down extremely well and would take away an awful lot of the angst that is currently being felt. So really my concern is to try and improve Waverley’s PR. People are very sensitive to all aspects of car parking in Haslemere and if we can show a degree of sensitivity to the concerns about what the effects of charging would have on the current situation, I think it would be hugely appreciated. I think if people recognise that we recognise that aspect they would view the decision to seek Section 38 permission to re-surface with a rather less hostile attitude. I’m sure that will be in everyone’s interest. Thank you very much.

Chairman, Cllr Robert Knowles:

Thank you. I’ll invite the Portfolio Holder to speak but, just for the record and for accuracy, Cllr Holder made reference to a bus depot. There are buses parked on an area without planning permission. It is not a depot. And for the record we must be quite clear that that is not a bus depot.

Cllr Carole King, Portfolio Holder:

Thank you very much indeed, Chairman.

I pick up a couple of points if I may by the two previous speakers. First of all, Cllr Holder was referring to increases in car park charges across Haslemere earlier in the year. In fact the charges were only increased in one of the four car parks in Haslemere and that is still below the recommended management fee for that car park. So, they’re still getting a really good deal there.

The issue about commuters… I’ve actually been out at quarter past 7, half past 7 in the morning and I’ve done some checking and in fact commuters aren’t parking in there at the moment. In fact if they did they’d get picked up on the four hour restriction which is in place there. So, if he believes that that’s happening, I’ll make sure the enforcement officers are a little more vigorous in their activities I think in future.

Going onto the issue of charging for car parks on this particular item. It is a matter for the planning inspector to decide whether we can re-surface this car park or not. It isn’t about charging. However, I do recognise the comments from The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee and their concerns about charging and these will be taken into consideration at the appropriate time which isn’t at this moment, I’m afraid.

On the displacement issue, we have in the past enjoyed a fairground on this car park, hence its name is the fairground car park, twice a year. On both of those times, certainly up until the time they ceased coming (we haven’t seen them for a couple of years) displacement of parking was never an issue. I think people were well aware, they were told in good time that the car park wasn’t available and as a large percentage of the commuters parking there don’t live within Waverley curtilage, I think they decided that discretion was the better part of valour and found a different way of coming to work.

On the issue of the additional promised spaces of car parking from the railway company, I’m afraid to say that I have very little confidence at the moment. I have no evidence that they are going to deliver on their promise, however, I do live in hope.

I would like to recommend, Leader, and I apologise for not having spotted it earlier, but the recommendation on page seven is inadequate in my opinion. I would like to recommend it is amended and if I may with your permission, I will read out what I would like to see as a new recommendation.

It is recommended that the Executive:

1)      notes and thanks The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee for their comments and

2)      agrees to the recommended from The Community Overview and Scrutiny Committee that a six week pre-application consultation with local traders, residents and the town council should be carried out before moving onto the second stage. I believe I have a seconder.

(Seconded by Cllr Julia Potts)

Chairman, Cllr Knowles:

Any other comments members? For the members here, the six week consultation, we’re quite happy with that and are very pleased with your recommendation. And on your recommendation number 7 in the papers on page 112 we have introduced a four hour restriction and that will be rigorously on the shoppers’ half of the car park. Members, the revised recommendations? Do you want it read again or are you quite happy? All happy? Are they agreed? Agreed.