Derbyshire Dales District Council is currently running a consultation around parking in the district http://www.derbyshiredales.gov.uk/your-council/consultations/current-consultations/car-parking-review. Although this can seem like a dry topic it does affect us all. Our tourism economy and high street rely on car parking to support it, the revenue from car parking helps to keep our council tax bills down, but our quality of life in the town is affected by where traffic is directed. There’s a straightforward solution under our noses.
The problem is that retailers report we don’t have enough “central”car parking and the price of what we have drives potential customers to other towns. Currently our car parking is:
Shawcroft DE6 1GD. This has 191 spaces including 13 disabled spaces and no coach spaces. It is open 24 hours. As part of the same space in my mind is Fishpond Meadow DE6 1FN with a further 125 spaces and 5 disabled spaces. My experience of these are that they are very “one way” – get very congested and getting out on a busy summer day is difficult because the exit is on to a busy thorough road. The layout of car parking spaces for this is being looked at but the routing of traffic through the town centre seems crucial – the routing down Buxton Hill to Madge Corner and then up to the traffic lights on Sturston Road is to be avoided by anyone who knows the area.
The next biggest car park is Cockayne Avenue DE6 1EJ with 119 spaces and 4 disabled spaces. This often has spaces available and has the benefit of being free. It does also use the same area of Ashbourne’s roads though and is always going to be full when we have sports events on the Rec.
The Swimming Pool car park has 87 spaces including 6 disabled spaces. Yet again access is a problem because of the one way stretch past the front of the leisure centre.
We then have the Cattle Market site (50 spaces, 3 disabled), Bus Station (39 spaces, 4 disabled), Market Place (48 spaces, 2 disabled), and Clifton Road (36 spaces).
So there you have it, around 700 DDDC car parking spaces.
On top of those however we have lots of on-street parking, and the Sainsbury’s car park.
Personally, I don’t think we have a parking problem but rather a parking opportunity and a traffic problem. If a tourist wants to come to Ashbourne they will get parked. A shopper may be put off because of the cost of parking and the difficulty of carrying lots of shopping to their car. I suspect most Ashbourne residents tend to drive around until they find a street space with a long enough free time for their purposes or use the Sainsbury’s car park and buy something in the store to offset the cost of their ticket.
The visiting tourist though cannot set their sat nav and guarantee a space at the destination car park. In Bakewell for example the car parking is not central but it is vast and access to the site is easy. The car entrance is well away from the town centre and the pedestrian access to the town is picturesque and central. Someone visiting Bakewell would go for the Cattle Market car park and find their space and may have a lengthy walk subsequently but it is very easy. In Ashbourne our spaces are fragmented and the traffic between some of the car parks is bad in the peak of summer.
Here’s a radical solution – the land running along the river valley from the Stepping Stone pub through to the back of St Oswald’s could be turned into one large car park accessible from the Stepping Stones end. I know the area is susceptible to flooding but this is only a car park and it must be fixable. This would be vast, very low cost parking and the only place where the resident’s permits were usable. The virtue is that it would join together the Waterside development and the Hug sculpture with the rest of the town, ease traffic congestion, tidy up a bit of an eyesore and potentially create a focal point for visitors to the town. It could potentially even be engineered to join up with the hospital, the leisure centre, Sainsbury’s and the Tissington Trail. The land area involved vastly exceeds the current footprint of the current car parks. The adjustment could then allow existing car parks to be used for other purposes. The Fishponds car park could be reclaimed for the Rec, the Cockayne Avenue car park could help with the expansion of QEGS. This also involves a simple open car parking space as opposed to the construction of multi-storey solutions. It also means that events such as Street Fest and street markets are easier to resolve. Potentially some could be held on parts of the car park.