ST. NICHOLAS STREET CAR PARK CONSULTATION
REPRESENTATIONS OF THE CAR PARK ACTION GROUP
The Car Parking Action Group is a group of concerned local people who are determined to ensure that the Council does not charge excessively for car parking spaces or impose unnecessary charges which might have an adverse impact on business or the community. We have no constitution. We are not a corporate body in any sense whatsoever, and we have no fixed membership.
In 2005 we campaigned vigorously against the Council’s decision to raise car park charges by 25%.
We now understand that the Council wishes to impose car parking charges on St. Nicholas Street Norton. We are invited to make representations.
The following people attended a meeting with Council officers in November 2006: Cllr. Paul Andrews, Chris Buxton, Keith Mennel, Denys Townsend and Roddy Bushell. There was a full discussion of the issues and the Group was invited to make representations.
We were told that, at that time, the public consultation over imposing charges at St. Nicholas Street had not yet commenced.
There was a further meeting with officers on 26th October 2007, which was attended by Cllrs. Paul Andrews and Elizabeth Shields, County Councillor David Lloyd Williams and Chris Buxton (for the Action Group), and Phil Long and Cllrs. Howard and Di. Keel and Cllr. Mrs. Linda Cowling (for the Council).
We make the following representations:
- We note that the Council wishes to make concessions in favour of customers of the swimming pool. We say the Council cannot have its cake and eat it. If the Council thinks that the imposition of car park charges would have an adverse impact on the business of the Norton Pool, the Council must also accept that the imposition of the same charges would also have an adverse impact on all other Norton businesses.
- We are opposed to the imposition of charges, which we feel is contrary to the Local Development Framework. The text on “Community Vitality and Viability contained within the draft Core Strategy Statement refers to and accepts the findings of a Retail Capacity Study which has identified that :
- A considerable amount of money spent by Ryedale residents goes to shopping centres outside of the District;
- All the town centres, except for Norton, are generally healthy with no signs of acute decline
- Malton has declined in the national retail ratings over recent years;
- There is a need for new retail space for comparison goods (eg bulky goods) in Malton;
- There is only a limited need for new/additional convenience goods, but a need to improve the quality and range of the existing offer.
- The text goes on to refer to the importance for the LDF to enhance the vitality and viability of the retail areas within the market towns.
- It is clear from the above that Norton’s commercial town centre is in difficulty and needs action to revitalise it. It follows that no action should be taken by the council which might further weaken Norton’s commercial town centre, and that any such action must inevitably be inconsistent with the policy of the Council as expressed in the draft LDF.
- At the meeting on 26th October 2007, the Council produced a document published by Yorkshire Forward entitled: “"Renaissance Market Towns Programme: Car Parking Research”. It was suggested on behalf of the Council that this document establishes that the viability of a shopping centre depends primarily on the quality and range of the retail offer and not on the availability or cost of car parking.
- We would comment as follows:
- We would accept that the viability of a shopping centre depends primarily on the quality and range of the shopping offer, but we can see nothing in the document that negates our view that the cost and availability of car parking is an important secondary factor.
- Our evidence suggests that, if the cost and availability of car parking is not right, this can prejudice the viability of a shopping centre and this is what has happened in Malton and Norton.
- Our evidence comes not only from the experience of local businesses in Malton/Norton, but also from the Lockwood Study, which we have referred to in the context of Malton.
- The document published by Yorkshire Forward confirms the weight that should be attached to the Lockwood Report and supports our case.
- Our comments on the Yorkshire Forward Document are set out in the attached appendix. The Council has been asked to comment on these comments, but have failed adequately to do so.
- The Lockwood Report categorises shopping centres into Regional, sub-regional and District centres. There is no point in pretending that Malton/Norton are sub-regional shopping centres like York or Scarborough, or a Regional centre like Manchester or Leeds.
- If Malton is a district centre, then Norton can either be considered as part of a combined Malton/Norton shopping offer or as a separate local shopping centre, which is lower in status than a District Shopping Centre.
- There is nothing in the Yorkshire Forward publication to suggest that a District Shopping Centre like Malton would benefit by the building of more superstores so as to convert the town into an out-of-town centre.
- If more superstores are built in Malton/Norton, the companies concerned will insist on the provision of free car parking, as is their national policy
- Malton/Norton is not suitably located nor does it have the infrastructure to be anything more than a District Centre. It is not close enough to York or Scarborough to be suitable for out-of-town shopping.
- As a District Centre, the shopping offer of Malton/Norton has to focus on the sale of convenience products, as is normal for District Centres.
- According to the Lockwood Study, if Norton is considered to be part of a combined Malton/Norton district centre, it should have a car park situated within five minutes walk of the shops, and its charges should not exceed 50P per hour for the first hour and for subsequent hours, the amounts detailed in the Report.
- St. Nicholas Street car park is situate within a five minutes walk of Norton shops.
- As it happens, the Core Strategy Statement does not treat Norton as part of a combined Malton/Norton district centre, but as a separate town centre in its own right, which is less viable than Malton. As such its status must be less than that of a district centre. In that case, it would not be logical to make charges as high as the maximum for those recommended in the Lockwood Report for District Centres. In our view, there should be no charge at all.
- St. Nicholas Street Car Park is not ideally located for Norton’s shops, but it is within five minutes walk of those shops, and is therefore used by shoppers. Consequently, any imposition of charges there is bound to have an adverse impact on Norton’s business community.
- The best place to have a town centre car park is behind the ATS premises with accesses from Wallgates Lane. However, there is no scheme planned to revive this idea currently and therefore there is no alternative at present to St. Nicholas Street and on-street car parking.
- If charges are imposed on St. Nicholas Street, this will exacerbate the problems caused by on-street car parking in the main street.
- It is believed that, when the car park was first donated to Norton UDC, the donation was conditional upon the land being used as a free car park for the residents of Norton. We are seeking to establish precisely what was agreed by checking archived minutes of Norton UDC, at about the time of the donation of the land. If this is correct, there is a moral commitment which Ryedale, as the successor of the Norton UDC ought to honour. There may even be a legal or equitable commitment if a “secret” or “constructive” trust can be established. We would add the following points:
- We understand that, when the car park was established, the owners of Bruntwood Terrace were promised that they would be able to use the car park free for the benefit of their properties, in place of rights which they already had to park cars behind their properties. There is no evidence of this arrangement in any deed or legal document, but the Council accepts the verbal evidence that has been provided by the present owners.
- Verbal evidence has also been provided by Keith Mennel and others in regard to the donation of the land for the car park being conditional on it being a free car park for all the residents of Norton. There are no documents available which would disprove this, and, in the absence of evidence to the contrary, the evidence of the older residents of Norton must be allowed to stand. The onus is on the Council to show that the verbal evidence of the local residents is unreliable.
- It is difficult to see how the Council can justify accepting the verbal evidence of the current owners of the Bruntwood Terrace houses, without also accepting the verbal evidence in regard to the donation of the land being conditional of it being held as a free car park for the benefit of the inhabitants of Norton.
- As mentioned above, the houses of Bruntwood Terrace have no alternative car parking of their own, and their predecessors agreed to give up part of their land, in return for free car parking in St. Nicholas Street car park. It is understood that the Council acknowledges this, and will ensure that the owners of these properties will continue to enjoy free car parking. However, this will inevitably lead to confusion, difficulty and misunderstanding. The best way to avoid this is not to charge at all.
- We cannot understand the reason for imposing charges.
- We do not accept that there is a decision in principle to impose charges (subject to resolving issues concerning the use of the car park by the residents of Bruntwood Terrace). We understood that the only decision was one to “consider” making such charges.
- As far as we know, the Council’s budget does not need charges from St. Nicholas St. to balance
- So, if the reason for imposing charges is to support the Council Tax, it is no longer valid.
- It is accepted that St.Nicholas Street has become a useful place for commuters using the railway to leave their cars, and also for the staff of Morrisons. These people are not necessarily likely to contribute very much towards maintaining the vitality of Norton’s commercial centre, and the imposition of a very nominal charge could be justified in order to discourage them.
- The Group takes the view that, if this is the reason for imposing charges, the matter can be dealt with in a way which is unlikely to prejudice Norton’s shops.
- The objective could be to allow parking at nominal cost for:-
- The neighbouring residents
- The customers for neighbouring businesses
- Visitors to the swimming pool
- A tariff system that might achieve that is:-
- Residents permits for free 24 hr parking
- 3 hours per day at a single tariff of 25P for all other customers, with no right to return on the day;
- 3-6 hours £2.90
- More than 6 hours £4.50
- The Council may say that such a system would be expensive to police. We don’t think so: all that would be necessary would be a few random checks every week, which should provide the necessary encouragement – and in Morrison’s case, appropriate discussion with management.
RENAISSENCE MARKET TOWNS PROGRAMME
The passage quoted by officers in support of the Council’s position is as follows:
“Many people fear that making changes to the way that parking is managed will adversely affect the town’s economy………. However, the limited evidence which does exist suggests that it is the town’s broader retail, commercial, leisure or tourism offer which is the primary factor affecting the town’s competitiveness, not the provision of parking…………..” (Page 6 Column 1)
- Provision of parking is not the same as the cost of car parking;
- Matters that are primary factors affecting the town’s competitiveness includes the leisure or tourism offer – this confirms what the Action Group has always said about Malton/Norton being at a disadvantage compared with Pickering and Helmsley – so that Malton/Norton should be treated differently.
- The document is concerned with car parking management and says very little about charges. The Lockwood Study is referred to, but there is nothing that we could find in the document which is in conflict with Lockwood’s findings. If you think we’re wrong, please show me where the conflict arises.
The following passages are relevant to our discussions:
A. “When changes to parking restrictions, charges or enforcement are made, the evidence suggests that the primary responses to that change tend to be:
- An acceptance of the new arrangements (in which case people’s behaviour broadly remains unchanged)
- A change in parking location (people park further away from their destination in an attempt to avoid paying a charge);
- A reduction in the length of stay in order to reduce parking costs.”
(Page 6 Col 2)
In the case of Wentworth Street, the report to Community Services this year did not, of course, cover any of these matters. The Council just has not even tried to take any of these matters into account or to make an accurate survey.
B “However, it is essential that gateway parking is complemented by good signposting to the car park on approach roads, as well as pedestrian signposting from the car park to the town centre itself” (Page 6 Col 2)
This was never done in the case of Wentworth Street.
C.“Footfall, retail performance and parking are related (probably)……………..
Higher parking costs do tend to lead to shorter stays which can affect retail revenue per head……………..”(Page 9 Col 1)
D.“In general terms comparison shopping is thought to be more susceptible to parking controls than convenience shopping and in some case there does appear to be a short-term downturn as a result of introducing charging”(Page 9 Col 2)
E.“The acceptability of charging relates to several factors:
- relative costs (and offer) of competitor towns;
- Availability of free parking elsewhere in the town;
- The status and pull of the town”;(Page 12 col 1)
Please note that this comment is completely consistent with and confirms Lockwood, who defines status of town in terms of whether or not they are a national centre, a regional centre (eg Leeds), a sub-regional centre (eg. York or Scarborough) or a District centre (eg. Malton/Norton or Pickering, and recommends levels o charges which are appropriate to each type of centre.
F. “The following is a list of signs that greater management of parking may not bring benefits:
- When there is no overall shortage of parking spaces;
- Where parking does not appear to be the number one local transport issue;
- The town performs a local role, without a significant rural catchment;
- The town’s economy is weak (for example retail vacancies are high and/or there are few “higher order” shops);
- The town has a nearby competitor with a better retail offer; or
- The town has a nearby competitor with a similar retail offer and free or cheaper parking” (Page 12 Col 2)
The last three bulleted items would clearly include Norton – and, of course, Malton as well.
There are other passages which could be quoted in support of the Action Group’s case.