Range of opinions about parking and pedestrianisation
A WIDE range of views were expressed at a lively public meeting in Wells to discuss parking and pedestrianisation.
There was standing room only at the meeting in Seager Hall organised by Wells Independents.
Chairman Philip Welch, a Wells city councillor, said that the aim was to get the views of people in Wells and pass those on to the public bodies that have the power to make changes.
On the topic of whether there should be limited pedestrianisation of Wells High Street, some of the traders in the audience voiced strong opposition.
“The idea of pedestrianisation really frightens me,” said Michelle Machin of Whiting & Son, who said that the shop has two or three pallets of goods delivered most days, and that a ban on vehicles would mean customers not being able to collect heavy items such as Calor gas and compost.
Robert Bevan from Protec agreed that takings would be badly hit, and said: “The car is our lifeblood. The car is part of the reason why Wells is thriving today.”
Shopkeepers should have a big input, said Keith Rudyard: “Trading is hard enough today. We do not want to see our lovely city sink because our High Street sinks.”
Resident Steve Barkham said that commercial vehicles and buses were the ones that needed to be stopped and that they could be diverted away from High Street.
But concern was also voiced about any changes to bus routes, meaning that elderly people might no longer be able to be dropped off near Market Place and High Street.
There was also concern that Wells could become more dangerous and vandal-prone at night if no vehicles were driving through, and about the impact on people who live in the city centre.
Councillor Roy Mackenzie said: “I think there could be a trial for a limited time. I’m in favour of a small number of Wednesdays and Saturdays to see how it goes.”
Loaye Agabani wondered how the success of a trial could be judged, and said that the risk to retailers of pedestrianisation is too great.
It was pointed out that motorists use High Street unnecessarily as a through route to other destinations, while two people raised the issue of air pollution, and said that pedestriansation would benefit people from a health point of view.
Andrew Fawcett suggested a compromise solution: putting up a sign at the top of Sadler Street saying Access Only.
There was overwhelming support for this idea when a show of hands was requested. Only two people were in favour of full pedestrianisation, while there was limited support for leaving things as they are or introducing pedestrianisation on market days or for certain events.
Turning to the issue of parking, everybody who spoke seemed to think it is a big problem in Wells, both with car parks and on-street parking.
Suggestions put forward ranged from allowing the first 30 minutes of parking in car parks to be free, and paying on exit rather than entry to allow people to stay in Wells for longer instead of having to rush off, to park and ride or park and walk schemes.
Mike Phelps said that he is going to apply for full planning permission to allow him to open Palace Fields as a car park more often than the 28 days he is allowed to do so at present, on market days and for special events, ground conditions permitting.
Three people who spoke all said they feared a fatality because of the parking situation on North Road.
In response to remarks that Wells Cathedral School should be providing parking for its students, who end up parking on North Road, or that land owned by the school near the skate park could be used for parking, the school’s director of estates, Eloise Kench, who lives in the area and was in the audience, said that the school was always looking at the issues and trying to find solutions.
From a show of hands, the majority of people present were in favour of free parking for an hour, more long-term and short-term parking, and paying on exit at car parks.
There was less support for a park and ride scheme, and about 30 people were in favour of a residents’ parking scheme.
Wells Independents have sent a report on the meeting to Somerset County Council, Mendip District Council and Wells City Council.