Melksham Chamber of Commerce and Industry
Lisa and Graham are on the executive committee, and Chamber of Commerce meetings are held at Well House Manor

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Car Parking in Melksham

Car Parking in the centre of Melksham is a major concern to many residents of the town and the surrounding area. Shops out of town are limited with a very limited bus service to may parts, driving is the only practical way to "nip quickly into town".

Devizes Car ParkThis April, car parking costs across Wiltshire will rise roughly in line with inflation, according to Dick Tonge, Wiltshire Council cabinet member with responsibility for parking within his portfolio. But for next year (starting April 2011), a radical shakeup is planned - Mr Tonge hopes to move forward to a system that's more fitted for the future, and rationalises the 25+ different parking regimes he inherited in Wiltshire to a much more manageable handful. And he is seeking inputs and suggestions as to what people think should be done, through organisations like the Community Area Partnership and the Wessex Association of Chambers of Commerce. This will be a process that lasts up to nine months.

At a meeting of the Chambers of Commerce on Saturday, 13th March, this was discussed, and particular concerns expressed across the county were:
* The need for short term parking, preferably at no charge, to quickly 'nip in to the bank'
* The need for parking for staff without charging them an hour's salary per day, or forcing them into neighbouring streets
* The feeling that the Council is Draconian - making a lot of money out of 5 minute overruns and other minor infringements
* Fees such as 55p per hour, and machines offering no change, forcing people without a 5p coin to overpay.


Parking in TrowbridgeThe suggestion has been made to drop the 25 regimes to just 4, and initial inputs were being sought as to the potential rates and changes. However, this is an opportunity to look somewhat more radically at the matter and consider options such as:
* Pay on exit, so you only pay for the time used
* Ring and Go / other mobile payment schemes, so you can "top up" if you get caught in a queue
* Payback schemes, where you get a refund of your parking costs from a shop that you use
* More frequent local buses from suburbs

The present pay on arrival, and pay for how long you're staying "up front" system was criticized for various reasons:
a) With a ticket displayed in your car, thieves know which cars they car can more safely target at the owner will be away for a long time
b) Shoppers sometimes have to cut short their trips as their ticket is running out; it is unrealistic to expect people to know if there will be a long queue in the bank or not!
c) Wardens seem to pounce on cars that overshoot by just a couple of minutes, to the extent that it seems they might be doing so to get commission payments.
d) More cautious shoppers often have to but a ticket for far longer than their actual stay, just in case the time is exceeded.
e) It's not practical for visitors to extend their visit if they're really enjoying the town.


Traffic Jam in MelkshamWith any of the fairer schemes, it needs to be noted that the income needs to remain at current levels, so that charges may need to go up to compensate for the reduction in income from fines, and from people overpaying. It is said that each of the two car parks in Westbury costs 48,000 pounds a year to run, although it is unclear how that figure is reached.

There are specific issues in Melksham:
a) Parking for staff, especially part time, at an affordable price
b) Parking in residential areas, such as Thackeray Crescent
c) Blockage of the town centre by a heavy flow to the short term spaces in Church Street, when King's Street and Lowborne might be better for this.
d) Discouragement of business by the current setup
e) Gaps of 50 minutes in every hour in bus services to Bowerhill, Semington Road, Roundpond, Berryfield, Riverside ... let alone to the villages.
f) Loss of spaces when Market Square becomes a more pedestrianized area



Planning ParkingWatch out for further development of this story. If you would like to make your point, come along to the Melksham Chamber of Commerce meeting at Well House Manor on 13th April at 6:30 p.m., or contact the president of the chamber - Graham Ellis - graham@wellho.net. There will be other opportunities to make inputs later in the year, but if you have any brilliant ideas not let us know. Dick Tonge is said to regard car parking as something of a poisoned chalice, and if you have a good, practical solution for him, I'm sure he would be delighted.

Car parking and its fine balance will be different between the different Wiltshire towns - each has its own characteristics and needs, and current "hot issues". The pictures illustrating this article show parking in Devizes, Trowbridge and Melksham ... and a core strategy planning meeting in Melksham.

Let's join up the core strategy, economic development, a more radical transport plan than includes offering a practical public transport alternative for those who want to use it ... for the good of all. Let's move away from a parking scheme which seems at times to have swelling income and traffic enforcement staff employment, to the detriment of businesses served by the car parks.

(written 2010-03-18, updated 2010-03-25)

 
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