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Sevenoaks town parking - the real story

Discussion in 'Sevenoaks Cycle Forum' started by John Morrison, Feb 26, 2014. Replies: 0 | Views: 9839

  1. John Morrison

    John Morrison New Member

    On behalf of Sevenoaks Cycle Forum I sent this email to councillors who will tonight (Wednesday) be asked to approve a daft plan to build double-decker prefabricated steel car parks in Sevenoaks town. The District Council's Economic and Community Development Advisory Committee contains (surprise surprise) no councillors from Sevenoaks town to represent the people who will have to look at these eyesores if they go ahead.

    This shows a 268-space single deck car park built by Top Deck Parking for ASDA at Longwell Green near Bristol. The proposed Buckhurst 2 park in Sevenoaks will have 300 spaces on two decks.

    Dear District Councillor

    You will be aware that Sevenoaks town, the area affected by this proposal, is not represented by any councillors on the Economic and Community Development Committee. You therefore have an extra responsibility to examine these proposals very carefully in the interests of residents before approving it. There must be no question of rubber-stamping something which could have very profound effects on the town's future.

    This proposal to expand car parking in the town centre is misleading, misguided and unneccessary. It will create at least one eyesore and possibly three. It may not even be technically feasible. By increasing the flow of vehicles into the town centre, it will worsen congestion, damage air quality, increase carbon emissions and will be wholly counterproductive. Rather than helping revive the town centre as the commercial heart of Sevenoaks, it will cause traffic gridlock and encourage shoppers and visitors to go elsewhere.

    The key aim of this proposal is to increase SDC parking revenues, not to manage parking and transport in a sensible manner. It rests on dubious arithmetical calculations designed to show that the amount of parking space in the town centre has fallen. If the expanded parking at Waitrose and the new M&S building is included, this is clearly not the case. The argument that there is a fixed parking 'demand' which must be met ignores one of the basic laws of economics, that of elasticity of demand. It is true that many people working in Sevenoaks have to come by car, and that at present they cannot all find spaces in the long stay car parks. But no thought has been given to reducing demand for long stay places by other means, which do not have to include price rises. Why does this plan not examine the case for company travel plans, car pooling and park-and-ride as alternatives to increasing parking supply?

    Many residents of Sevenoaks town use their cars for short journeys into the town centre to shop. Other short trips are generated by the school run and commuter travel to the station. Many of these journeys of less than a mile could be made on foot or by bike, which are more sustainable transport solutions. Why does this plan not consider shifting some parking places from short stay to long stay and encouraging walking, cycling and use of public transport instead?

    Sevenoaks District Transport Strategy, approved in 2010, is supposed to be the framework for transport policy until 2026. It says:
    Adding an extra 300 spaces to Buckhurst 2 car park, with planning permission for another 134 spaces on Suffolk Way will unbalance policy by increasing parking supply by between 30 and 40 %. No comparable effort is promised to promote public transport, cycling and walking. Many areas of Sevenoaks town are no-go areas for pedestrians because they lack a footway. Although a Cycle Strategy for the district has been agreed in 2012, there has been no progress towards implementation. Why does this plan ignore other sustainable transport solutions which are clearly laid out in the SDST and the Core Strategy? Is SDC committed to them or not?

    Transport planners have been aware since the 1960s that providing more car parking to 'meet demand' merely increases the flow of traffic and leads to worse congestion than before. This change of policy was first set out in 1963 in Traffic in Towns by Colin Buchanan. Unfortunately, the authors of the proposal do not seem to be aware of this. Transport planners whom I have consulted have predicted that, if implemented, an increase of 300 or more parking places in the town centre will inevitably worsen congestion and slow traffic down. Sevenoaks High Street and the Pembroke Road/High Street junction are already congested but will experience total gridlock when traffic flows increase, as they certainly will. This will driver away visitors to the town centre rather than drawing them in. The town is already expecting a 40% increase in traffic flows once the M&S development opens. What assessment has been made of the expansion of parking on future traffic flows?

    Sevenoaks High Street is already designated a 'congestion hotspot' and is an AQMA (Air Quality Management Area) because pollution levels from motor vehicles are dangerously high. What assessment has been made of the environmental impact of this plan, including the affect on carbon emissions and air quality?

    A triple-storey car park at Buckhurst 2 built in prefabricated steel would dominate the town at its highest point and create an eyesore. It would also dominate the view westwards from Knole Park and change the town's character for ever. Why has SDC not provided any illustration or sketch to show what this structure would look like to enable residents to judge for themselves?

    The existing Bradbourne car park at the station is used by many rail commuters to London from the Maidstone area, who create a noisy rat-run through eastern parts of Sevenoaks from 5.30. a.m. These drivers, unlike workers in the town centre, bring nothing to Sevenoaks except their parking fees and their exhaust fumes. There is no case for bringing in more of them, except to increase council revenues. What is the benefit to Sevenoaks of attracting more motorists to the station?

    SDC has relied on a consultancy report by Top Deck Parking, which makes prefabricated car parks. Its website has illustrations of car parking built for clients including Gatwick Airport, Morrisons and Asda. However, none of these are double-decker parks like the ones proposed for Sevenoaks. The company does not seem to have found any other local authorities as its clients and it appears not to have built a public pay-and-display car park before. There is a potential problem with the Buckhurst 2 site, which has a steep gradient that may have to be levelled to allow construction of a prefabricated two-storey park. Why has the Top Deck Parking consultancy report not been published by SDC?

    Many people in Sevenoaks will be puzzled by the lack of prior consultation over this plan. Until 2014, SDC always opposed multistorey car parks in the town centre. The timetable leading up to approval at a Council meeting on April 1 leaves barely six weeks for a debate to take place. As any planning applications will be decided by SDC itself, it is important that maximum time be allowed for public discussion, and maximum transparency at an early stage. Why the rush? Why the lack of detail? Has SDC made commitments on expanding town centre parking to the developers of the M&S site without announcing them publicly?

    I hope you will use the meeting tomorrow night to seek answers to these questions. If they are not answered, this proposal should be taken back to the drawing board or at least deferred.

    Yours sincerely

    John Morrison
    Sevenoaks Cycle Forum

    19 Bayham Road Sevenoaks Kent TN13 3XD 01732 454536 or 07881784652 (m)

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