The problems with car parking at the village Memorial Hall was mentioned again at the quarterly Hall Trustees meeting last Thursday, with extra concern raised over an increased demand on available spaces when the new school term commences in September. Although we are not sure of actual numbers, it is understood additional new classes are commencing with the consequence of additional staff, parents and helpers adding pressure to the already serious issue. Without repeating here the known problems and recognising the complexities / costs of different schemes like ‘Pay and Display’ that involve a long term commitment that do not necessarily answer the unique problems of our village car park and its varied users, we would like to propose a possible solution: A ‘Ticket and Display’ parking scheme. Yes, there may be concerns about how this would operate, how it could be policed, etc. though we cannot see strong reasons why it is not, potentially, a solution. It is one that could be considered by the Parish Council and tried at comparably low cost to ‘Pay and Display’ without the long term contractual commitment. Some obvious questions and possible answers ... How would this ‘Ticket and Display’ scheme suggestion work? Between the hours of say, 2.00pm to 3.00pm, each vehicle parked in the car park must display a valid timed ticket available from 1 or 2 machines located conveniently in the car park area. A ticket is printed with the date / time and has a validity of, say, a 4 hour period. Therefore no vehicle entering the car park before 10.00am is able to obtain a ticket that lasts and is valid for the ‘controlled period’. What about school drop off / school collection times / short visits / etc. ? Very much easier for parents than a ‘Pay and Display’ solution as no ticket is required to be obtained if you are outside of the ‘controlled period’. For the morning school drop off and afternoon collection, after 3pm, continue to use the car park as normal, with, hopefully, more available spaces. You only need a ticket if you intend to be in the Car Park during the control period of 2pm to 3pm. I live in the High Street and have no off street parking facility? We would suggest a limited number of annual permits, registered to a vehicle, are issued to those houses affected, within a certain distance of the car park. A fee may be payable to help offset scheme running costs. I work at the school / village shop / business and wish to park all day? One answer could be, simply obtain a ticket during the lunch time. However, it is suggested that the annual permit scheme would be extended to include the village shop / business workers and nominated school staff. To limit usage, authorisation from the employer may be necessary together with requiring that the vehicle journey is at least, say 1 mile, from the car park to encourage alternative means of coming to work. A similar (different?) fee would apply. (It is also suggested that the idea is explored between the Parish Council and Sevenoaks DC for some existing yellow line designated roads to be utilised by these ‘permit holders’ to free up spaces in the car park.) Other exemptions? Blue badge holders, utility vehicles, etc. alongside the flexibility of determining which days of the week to operate the scheme, Mon – Fri, possibly Sat? Certain ad hoc days e.g. the village fete or a particular event can easily be catered for, plus it may even be practical to suspend the scheme during school holidays, recognising that a level of ‘consistency’ is required. How can it be policed and an effective penalty applied? During the ‘controlled hour’ cars parking are examined for the display of a valid ticket. If a ticket is not displayed or invalid, then it is suggested a system of 3 strikes is used. On the first occasion a warning notice is applied to the windscreen (similar to a PCN but with no financial penalty, simply a 1st level warning that subsequent infringement will incur a financial penalty). On the second occasion, within a 12 month period, a more strongly worded notice is applied, again warning of a financial penalty. The 3rd occurrence results in a penalty notice to be administered by an external agency. On example of this type of company is FlashPark who have a £85 penalty notice system. Note, policing the car park is only required for a single hour and, after time, it may only be necessary to retain the deterrent for it to be done, say, once a week on a random day. Do we have to pay FlashPark for wardens to police the car park and issue penalties and is there a long term contract? No, in fact a commission is paid pack to the issuing authority of £15 per vehicle to offset scheme costs. Full details of how the FlashPark penalty scheme would work can be found here. Either paid staff or volunteers would be used for the initial local procedural step. There could be liaison with Kent County Council regarding how the local Community Warden Scheme be extended in this instance to support the Parish need, particularly as KCC are not apparently providing any provision for extra school staff parking. Possibly a similar scheme to the Speedwatch volunteers could operate to provide this local requirement. At least one hall trustee has indicated a willingness to volunteer if the suggested scheme is pursued by the Parish Council. Does FlashPark work already with local authorities? Yes, it is understood they already operate with Shere Parish Council, Somerset CC, HM Prisons and a number of village halls. Another Otford village private car park at Otford Builders Merchants have adopted the FlashPark scheme. The Parish Council have indicated previously that with this suggested scheme their staff would be exposed to abuse from disgruntled parkers who have been issued penalty notices. We do not believe that this will be the case, especially when 2 prior warnings have already been issued giving notice of the financial penalty. A fairness can be applied to the scheme that is unlikely to be the case with a ‘Pay and Display’ managed car park with the operator seeking to maximise revenue. How many instances will there be of Pay and Display infringements at school drop off time or slightly badly parked vehicles leading to complaints, that despite being managed by a 3rd party operation will lead to knocking on the door of the Parish Council? With this suggestion there are still many aspects to be carefully thought through e.g. good signage, rental / purchase of ticket machines, should there be a notional fee (20p?) for a ticket to be dispensed, etc. but we cannot identify any strong reasons why the scheme may not work and would request the Parish Council to consider this suggestion again amongst the options available, after its first proposal in January 2012. From the hall management perspective, time is running out now with the car parking problems likely to become worse from September and the very real risk of losing further regular hirers of the hall to other venues. Heightened frustration and the risk of accidents as traffic turning into the car park cannot proceed is a major concern. We recognise the complexities and efforts of the Parish Council to seek a solution and this suggestion may not turn out to be the optimum answer in the long term with possibly a new ‘green’ car park located elsewhere or extending the village hall car park somehow, but these are very much long term solutions with large capital outlays. A village meeting was held on Friday 29 June attended by approx. 100 people to hear and comment on the Parish Council's plans for the car park. Have you any comments / feedback as an existing car park user, one of the school staff or a parent, an Otford business or villager about the suggested Ticket and Display scheme that would assist the Parish Council seek a solution to the ongoing Memorial Hall car parking problem?