PARKING in Melksham could be set to change as Wiltshire Council reviews charges across the county.
As part of the review, a one-hour free parking trial has been introduced in Westbury until December 31st with the success of that determining what happens in similar sized towns including Melksham.
Campaigners for free parking in Melksham are hoping one hour free parking will be re-introduced to help boost the town and attract shoppers to the town centre.
Critics of the existing car parking scheme say it has damaged the town centre and helped force several shops out of business.
The review will give local people the chance to have their say and could result in a move away from the current charging system for parking based on four bands across the county, to options based on individual car parks or town assessments.
A number of charging options will be considered including first hour free parking, free after 4pm, Sunday charges, or evening charges.
Melksham Town Councillor Pat Aves believes an hour’s free parking would benefit the town but fears charges may actually be increased. She said, “I’m sure it would help to have the first hour free. I know I would be more inclined to pop into town for the odd item instead of putting it off, or going to a supermarket.
“My guess is that charges are likely to be increased, though, in which case I would really like to see the main car park, which is owned by Wiltshire Council, re-designed and given a proper makeover. Parts of it badly need repairing and it really isn’t a very safe layout for pedestrians. This would at least make up for having to pay the extra, and add to the general improvements, the kind that attracts both residents and visitors.”
Graham Ellis, president of Melksham Chamber of Commerce, also says one-hour free parking would benefit the town. He said, “A free one-hour parking scheme would undoubtedly be positively received, as residents and people who work on the various industrial areas really resent being charged for stopping a few minutes to visit their bank or a single shop.
“And those businesses in the town which don’t offer parking to their customers would also welcome such a move. Even businesses such as ours, where we provide free parking for our customers (and pay for its upkeep at our own expense), want to see the town thrive.
“I don’t personally have strong views on what parking charge changes should be made, beyond feeling that some charge should be made for the service at the point of use; logically, it should in some way reflect the price of providing the parking, rather than having parking for – especially in Melksham – by the people of Melksham Town who largely live within walking distance of the town, so don’t park there.
“There would seem to be logic, perhaps, in a resident’s parking scheme if parking were to be heavily subsidised, but you then end up with a system that complex and expensive to administer. I have a great deal of sympathy and respect for the people who have to sort this one out and try to keep everyone happy, when in reality the best solution taken dispassionately is a middle of the road one that pleases nobody.”
John Thomson, Wiltshire Council deputy leader and cabinet member responsible for sustainable transport said, “This is a wide-ranging review of an issue which is key to the development of our towns and villages. We are looking at ways to make it easier for the public to pay for their parking through the use of new technology, such as paying by mobile phone instead of using cash, using websites to pay for parking and automatic number plate recognition.
“Our car parking review is comprehensive and is about much more than just cars, it is about enhancing the local economy, environment and providing value for money in our car parking services. We are keen to engage and work with local communities in order to provide them with the most appropriate facilities. I hope as many people as possible will get involved and tell us what they think.”
The consultation will be opened in two stages. From 27th October the strategy document and 14 town profiles have been made available and on 10th November the survey and the charging summary will go live. The consultation will remain open until 16th January.
All documentation will be available at http://consult.wiltshire.gov.uk/portal.
The results will be collated and analysed in the new year.