20130316_Sledgehammer to miss a Nut

Onslow CPZ – a sledge-hammer to miss the nut

Oh dear! I fear once again (p2. Surrey Ad 15th March ‘Upset at plans for extension to CPZ’) that we are seeing all of the results of a comprehensive lack of strategic planning, a prevalence of tactical initiatives to treat symptoms, an absence of imagination and a failure to understand the needs and frustrations of residents.  This time it is not about the town centre but the circumstances are all too familiar.

The area was largely developed since the 1930’s (connected to Guildford only by a bridge built before cars and trucks were even invented), and yet Onslow contributes well in excess of £2bn each year to the local economy and houses the major employment and economic drivers in the town (yes, even including the retail area!): the University, Research Park, Hospital and so much more. The only parking strategy that has been applied in the past few decades has been to restrict on-site parking provision for out-of-town businesses and institutions – whilst allowing them to expand enormously – on the assumption that, despite a woeful public transport provision, employees and students would somehow leave their cars at home. 

Add to that the economic squeeze making it even more likely that commuters from Guildford Mainline station will seek to park for free instead of paying to park at the station, and we can see the results of a failure to plan for the inevitable.

On 6th November, the Onslow Park & Ride scheme was given planning consent. Councillors Goodwin and Phillips objected – not because of the basis of operation, but because of the congestion it might cause on local roads, an objection they ironically did not recognise when considering the Bellerby scheme just minutes earlier!).  And yet, it is the basis of operation that threatens to lock Onslow into its perennial parking nightmare.

From an operational perspective, given that we recognise that there is demand from local employees, commuters and students to park cars during the working day, why will the Park and Ride not help to resolve that problem?  Given that everyone who has tried to visit a loved-one in hospital gets fed up at the inadequate parking provisions, why would a park and ride scheme on the hospital’s doorstep not be used to help overcome a serious and stressful problem at the RSCH?  Given Guildford Borough Council’s emphasis on growing the evening economy in Guildford, why would the hours of operation be set to preclude a visitor to Guildford from remaining in town to enjoy the restaurants and cultural offerings of the town?

We are told that studies are being undertaken to try to ease some of the junctions on the A3 past Onslow (in particular to help with local congestion).  Surely this must add to the number of people who will see Onslow as a convenient place to park.

There needs to be an urgent and comprehensive neighbourhood planning exercise undertaken across both Onslow and Westborough to deal with these issues.  Onslow should reject a tax on its parking spaces; not least when the application of it is so clumsy and ill-directed. 

Twenty-five years ago or so, Woking Borough Council had the wit to set its parking restrictions to operate on weekday mornings only – parking being restricted to a maximum of two hours within a four hour period from 08.30.  That had the effect of making it unusable for commuters seeking to go from the White Rose Lane area to the station.  At all other times parking is unrestricted – but good behaviour remains controlled by yellow lines to protect junctions and passing places.  One administrative advantage in the Woking scheme is that the time required for enforcement is reduced into a narrow window and so it can be much more robust and, consequently, can work well.  It does not need to be a visitor tax for Council-Tax-paying residents.

The CPZ plans are failing to win over Onslow residents because they are another tax at a time when the Council has sent out its request for a 2% funding increase – from Council Tax.  The parking issue is a tough nut to crack, but it will not be resolved by these sledgehammer-wielding Councillors missing this particular nut!

Julian D S Lyon MBA FRICS

Onslow Village


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