We've posted before about the Chamber of Trade proposal for better use of Cliffe Street car park.
They've been long and detailed and maybe didn't drive the point home. So here's the short, sharp version.
What's the Problem?
There is nowhere in Dewsbury with flexible parking. Whatever ticket you buy, or whatever free parking you use, it is always time limited with a penalty at the end of it. This is contrary to a fundamental principle of town centre regeneration which is to persuade visitors to stay for longer periods.
Fear of the substantial penalty means that shoppers and visitors go elsewhere. We know that businesses have moved out of Dewsbury for this reason.
Dewsbury is the only town in North Kirklees with parking charges and the residents and business owners feel aggrieved by this.
The council says that Cliffe Street car park is surplus to requirements and have scheduled the only large car park they still control for residential development instead of using it to promote the town.
Solution: Make Cliffe Street car park the main gateway for visitors
There will always be people who just need to 'pop into town' for a quick visit who will want to use the on-street or town centre car parking. Their choice is likely to be to get as close as possible and pay the charge.
But let's make Cliffe Street car park the main gateway for visitors who want to stay a while. Give people the choice to pay or not to pay according to their needs.
Free with no time limits and no penalties.
Every town centre regeneration plan encourages people to stay in the town centre. Until we encourage this behaviour any recovery in Dewsbury is doomed to failure. We need a car park with no fees (like the rest of North Kirklees) and no penalties so our visitors can stay relaxed no matter how long they stay.
Deliver a Welcome
Make sure that all visitors know they are welcome. Place 'Welcome To Dewsbury' signs at all intersections of the ring road with a sign to 'Free Parking'.
Clean Up this corner of town
The car park serves the same purpose it has always served - to be convenient for the influx of visitors that traditionally arrived at Dewsbury Market. The Market Hall is due for a revamp which it is hoped will attract more visitors. Yet when we investing substantial money to attract more visitors we are at the same time planning to remove the car park that serves the attraction.
However, visitors are not going to be impressed by the state of the buildings in the area of Sharpe Street and Battye Street that have long been neglected.
Park and Ride.
Make it clear that visitors should park here if they want the most convenient stay. Extend the Free Town Bus route up Sharp Street, through the car park and down Camroyd Street for the benefit of the elderly and infirm who will then find Cliffe Street car parking more attractive than searching for a parking space in the town centre. They can ride the bus if they feel unable to tackle the hill or can walk in down a clear, safe pedestrian route if they prefer.
Create a Quality Pedestrian Route
Create a clear pedestrian route from the car park past the Market and in to the town centre. This may mean that vehicle access in via Sharpe Street becomes one way with vehicles exiting down Camroyde and Battye Street.
This is exactly in accordance with the Active Travel initiative of making more space available for pedestrians and cyclists. Disabled drivers may well also choose to use Cliffe Street if they know they have a clear run down into town in their wheelchair or mobility scooter.
This has all been done before - let's use best practice.
Pathway is a Resilient Investment
The pathway would be relevant and improve the pedestrian experience whether the site continues as a car park, or is used for either office or residential development. Whatever the future of the site, the investment in the pathway would not be wasted.
Make it Easier for the Disabled
Consider moving the Mobility Centre to Cliffe Street. Once Cliffe Street is easy to find and access and has lots of space then it become the obvious place to transfer from car to mobiility scooter. The wide pedestrian access route has sufficient space to accommodate mobility scooters.
Create A Business Opportunity
For those who still find it too far to walk - is there a business opportunity with trishaws to fill in between Town Buses - and a town centre service for shops using cargo bikes?
See Pedalme and CyclingWithoutAge or various alternatives. They may need electric versions for repeated assaults on the Sharp Street hill - but lets have a look at the numbers and make visiting Dewsbury a fun experience - even for the elderly.
At present, any parking revenues are being extracted from a weak market. By promoting the car park as free to the point that it becomes full then there will be proven demand. But let's make sure the patient is healthy again before extracting more blood.
If the car park becomes successful to the point of being full it would be viable to install variable time metering by which users can pay for the time used - but,a gain, without punitive penalties.
Time limited charging with penalties can continue in the town centre where it is necessary to manage demand.
Variable time pricing could then be tested over time to optimise revenue for the council.
But we have to stop making people afraid to visit Dewsbury.
The government is currently throwing money at councils to improve town centres and expand walking and cycling. Surely our council can find some way of making this happen.
Requirements, time frame & cost
The car park is an existing asset that requires little work in order to make it productive in delivering more visitors to Dewsbury. (Yes, we know. Someone is going to say that there is nothing to visit in Dewsbury. But we have to work on all aspects at the same time)
Active marketing and promotion
Signage for ring road and entry/exit
Develop quality pedestrian route
1-2 years. Add to West Yorkshire Combined Authority M2D2L corridor for funding or into Towns Fund bid
Cost is minor compared with other plans
Seizing the opportunity
The car park is currently scheduled for residential development because it was reputed to be 'Surplus to requirements'. However, the council has introduced alternatives for the site include office development which indicates that the current scheduling is not cast in stone.
Any of the council's plans will take several years to develop. This Park & Ride proposal can be put in place very quickly with minimum investment and demonstrate whether it delivers benefits for the town before the site is ever required for any other use.
The council has recently asked us to test various changes to roads, cycling and pathways on the basis that it's only a test and can be easily reversed. This proposal falls into the same category. In the time available before any other use is required the idea can be tested and easily reversed when some other plan takes precedence over attracting visitors to the town. And if it doesn't work then the only loss is the cost of some road signs.
We can see no negative impact to this proposal. The council believes the car park is surplus to requirements and has already stated that the loss of parking revenue is not an issue. So let's maximise the benefit it can deliver for the town.