Alex Hurrell, Reporter
Thursday, June 13, 2013
More than half the “drop-and-shop” parking places in North Walsham Market Place could be lost under improvement plans pencilled in for next March.
This week’s revelation has shocked a North Walsham Chamber for Business chief who says the cut, from 19 short-stay parking slots to a possible eight, is far more than members had expected and could have a serious impact on town-centre trade.
The news comes as the struggling town centre adjusts to the recent loss of a fishmonger and a greengrocer, and as traders fight to try and gain cash for free car parking in the town’s Bank Loke and Vicarage Street car parks as part of a deal with Scott Properties, the developers of another edge-of-town supermarket, on Cromer Road, which has been granted conditional planning approval.
The Market Place parking space proposals are part of an estimated £97,000 worth of changes, first discussed in 2007, aimed at ending traffic snarl-ups in the town centre and making it a safer and more pleasant environment for pedestrians.
Nicholas Lee, chamber vice chairman, said they had expected to lose two or three slots under plans to change the bays, which are currently at a 90-degree angle from the kerb, into wider slots in an echelon formation to help with visibility and manoeuvrability for drivers.
“I am very surprised at this. If they had said they were dropping it to 16 I don’t think we would have argued but I feel more than 50pc is too large a reduction. We are going to have to discuss this at our next meeting,” he added.
“Those spaces are critical to businesses in the town. A lot of people use them and call in to shops. They are full during the day.”
A county council spokesman said: “We are working on four options at the moment but there will be a net reduction in spaces. The options have a blend of regular and disabled bays. The favoured option in terms of aesthetics, buildability and ease of use has two disabled and six regular spaces.”
The plans also include widening the pavement on the parking bay side of Market Place, reducing the road width to three meters.
Designers hope the move would deter motorists from waiting for parking spaces to become vacant, adding to congestion especially when buses are dropping off or collecting passengers in Market Place.
North Norfolk District Council has offered £46,000 towards the scheme and the county council will meet the rest.
The county council spokesman said final designs and the time scale for their implementation would depend on the result of public consultation but there was a “provisional programme date” of March 2014.
Phase one of the scheme, the erection of signs directing motorists to the town’s shoppers’ car parks, has already been completed.
It is hoped the signs will relieve congestion in Market Place caused by drivers, unfamiliar with North Walsham’s layout, hunting for somewhere to park.