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Victoria Park charging – anger grows as research revealed

 

Damning new evidence has emerged about the justification for the parking restrictions and charges introduced in Royal Victoria Park following the discovery of two separate sets of research that appear to disprove the theory that the charges were required because the park was filled with commuters.

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The Liberal Democrat run council has always claimed that the restrictions and charges had to be introduced to stop commuters from blocking the park all day and preventing park users from being able to park there.

However, we can reveal that the Liberal Democrats themselves commissioned research in 2011 that seems to show that this is not the case and that they have subsequently denied the existence of the research, apparently because it didn’t corroborate the justification that they wanted to put to the people of Bath.

The Liberal Democrat’s own research seems to show that car parking in the park only reached capacity for two moments on a weekday – at 11.15am and 2.15pm. Vehicles parking in the park before 9.00am were almost 100 below the park capacity and the number of vehicles parked in the park fluctuated between when it first reached capacity at 11.15am and when it last reached capacity at 2.15pm as vehicles came and went. Most interestingly, the Liberal Democrat survey showed parking capacity falling away steeply after the peak use at 2.15pm and by 4.00pm was once again at approximately 100 vehicles below capacity. This appears to disprove the notion that the park was filled by commuters who stayed there all day for free.

The Liberal Democrat research into vehicles parking shows that capacity was only reached fleetingly in the late morning and the early afternoon.

The Liberal Democrat research into vehicles parking shows that weekday capacity was only reached fleetingly in the late morning and the early afternoon.

A previous, more exhaustive survey, was commissioned by the Conservative Group in Council and took place from 16-22 July 2008, which included term-time weekdays, and included an automatic traffic count, a roadside interview survey of all drivers excluding park employees, and reply paid survey cards.

This survey showed that commuters accounted for only 40 per cent of vehicles using the park, fewer than the people visiting the park and the play area (44 per cent). Shoppers, people on personal business and tourists were the next largest group (14 per cent). Other people parking included residents, people having lunch in local eateries, golfers and bowls players.

The Conservative research showing user trends.

The Conservative research showing user trends.

The numbers of vehicles parked fluctuated throughout the day as people came and went with only 70 vehicles over the duration of the survey leaving without being able to find somewhere to park. An almost equal number of drivers used the park as a short cut.

In total 20 per cent of the commuters worked in the finance, estate agency and legal professions 14 per cent worked in retail and another 14 per cent worked for BANES council.

The duration of stay for vehicles parking showed that the vast majority (235) stayed for less than an hour. 145 didn’t stop at all, 137 stayed for between one and two, 75 for between two and four hours and only 129 stayed for more than eight hours. Again this appears to disprove the theory about commuters.

Duration of stay from the Conservaitve research.

Duration of stay from the Conservative research.

20 per cent of people parking in the park were Bath residents.

“It appears that the people have Bath were misled about the justification for the parking restrictions and charges, but this is really only half the story,” comments Malcolm Cupis, Conservative candidate for Kingsmead Ward.

“The Council has refused to acknowledge the existence of the research when asked, presumably because its findings do not tally with the justification that they wanted to make for introducing the restrictions and charges. The real story is in what has happened subsequently though, because the park is now perpetually empty, not just empty of cars, but empty of people. Residents are finding that the commuters have migrated to the streets outside their homes. Local businesses are finding that their daytime trade has been seriously hit. Park users seem to be opting to go elsewhere rather than pay to park and be restricted as to how long they can stay. The Council is clearly not making the money that it had forecast it would make because people are choosing not to pay to park there, which means the burden of any shortfall will land back with the taxpayer.

“In short, absolutely nobody is benefitting, except for that vocal minority of people who are blindly opposed to private motorised transport, regardless of what people actually need, and regardless of the consequences.

“Nobody is proposing a return to the previous free-for-all situation. The park should not be used by commuters. But the new system of charges and restrictions is failing the needs of everybody. The solution could simply be to give the whole park a four or six hour limit, to deter commuters, but to make the first two or four hours free of charge, to encourage all other users, and to provide local residents access with their parking permits.

Conservative Shadow Transport Spokesman Cllr Anthony Clarke has demanded to know why the Council has not published a review as it had promised.

““First the Council said it would review these parking charges in December, then this was pushed back to January,” said Cllr Clarke.  “Now we are in February and there is still no sign of a decision.

“The Liberal Democrats’ readiness to hike on-street parking charges throughout the city is hurting local trade and harming the local economy.  During last summer traders at Victoria Park reported a drop in visitor numbers, and residents that I’ve spoken with say they want to see a period of free parking reintroduced at the park.

“The tragedy is that this could so easily be resolved if only the Lib Dems were willing to listen.  The Council needs to get on and take a decision before the spring and summer, when more residents will be wanting to go and visit the park.”

We have contacted Liberal Democrat Cabinet member for Transport Caroline Roberts for a comment on these findings but to date have not received a response.

 
 
 

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