Midsomer Norton deserves the best.Two Hours Free Parking in Return for Investment

By Gordon Mackay

12th Feb 2024 | Opinion

South Road Car Park Needs Investment
South Road Car Park Needs Investment

Although parking charges are a contentious issue, one thing everyone can surely agree on is Midsomer Norton needs investment.

South Road Car Park itself and the access lane to the High Street give a poor first impression for the many people visiting our wonderful town. In the evening, many areas of the car park are poorly lit and there is anti-social behaviour.

Without the car park generating any revenue whatsoever, it's difficult to make the case for the maintenance and investment it needs. A short-term view may be that parking charges will not bring in much revenue but the town needs long-term plans and long-term investment. My worry is Midsomer Norton remains the only completely free parking area in B&NES and the investment needed here continues to go to other towns.

While the High Street is recovering strongly from lock-down restrictions, with new shops, restaurants and cafés opening, it's imperative that South Road car park offerers the two-hour free parking period advocated by Cllr Mike Auton. Supermarkets generally offer two hours free parking which must be calculated as being enough time to encourage turnover without discouraging shoppers. Whereas supermarkets generally prohibit parking in excess of two-hours with punitive charges, South Road Car Park could have the advantage of offering a sensible onward charge of 40p an hour with convenient, simple to use, tap-in, tap-out systems in place. The necessary security infrastructure will also combat anti-social behaviour.

Emissions-based charges, as argued by Cllr Shaun Hughes have no place in Midsomer Norton and would only discriminate against people for whom certain vehicles are unsuitable. Such charges would also do nothing to discourage journeys which could otherwise be taken on foot. EVs create just as much congestion as other vehicles.

The Town Council have done a fantastic job since its creation in 2012 delivering an amazing Town Park complete with a stunning amphitheater, a Multi Use Games Area at West Clewes and transforming the Wellow Brook Walk to name a few. On the High Street, the 160 year old, Grade II listed Town Hall is not only being saved from eventual dereliction but transformed into a modern, economically sustainable civic centre which will see the Cinema return along with the reinstatement of the historic Market Hall. Redevelopment of the Island, starting this spring, will deliver a market square and event space to complement the Town Hall.

It's now time to see long overdue investment in South Road Car Park, the access lane and large parts of the High Street itself. Two-hours free parking with sensible, non-emissions based charges thereafter is a reasonable compromise. Midsomer Norton deserves the best and that includes a great car park and High Street which is worth 40p an hour to visit.

Gordon Mackay, in a personal capacity.


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