The council has a large but little used car park in Dewsbury. It should be used - to benefit the town - not neglected.
The Dewsbury Chamber of Trade made the following suggestions during the 2019 consultation on parking in Dewsbury run by Kirklees consultants, Systrans..
What are the problems?
1. All parking in Dewsbury is currently for fixed periods and carries the fear of a penalty fine. The current parking charges are recognised to be relatively cheap but it is the fear of a penalty that causes concern,
This is especially the case when it is seen to be aggressively pursued. A number of businesses have moved out of the town because of this.
Even when the council offers 3 hours free in Cliffe Street car park there is still the danger of a stiff penalty should you overstay.
2. There is no parking available where the user can pay flexibly for the time used leading to a relaxed stay in town.
3. Businesses have difficulties with deliveries and no parking is available for business vehicles without fear of penalty. Parking is costing businesses in excess of £1,000 per year for a single vehicle..
4. Strategies to date deal only with the short term control of parking and not with the long term regeneration of the town.
Comparison with other towns in North Kirklees.
Why is Dewsbury treated differently to other towns in North Kirklees?
The Leader of the council has declared that while there is surplus parking in North Kirklees there will be no parking charges. (Council discussion on parking in Cleckheaton)
The council considers Cliffe Street car park to be surplus to requirements and has designated the whole of it, the largest council owned car park, for residential use in the Local Plan. The Chamber does not agree and considers the retention of a ‘relaxed’ parking facility to be an important asset for the town.
By the council’s own logic therefore there should be no parking charges in Dewsbury.
However, Dewsbury has a problem of narrow streets, limited access and little parking available in the town centre.
The Chamber therefore recognises the necessity for parking to be controlled by parking charges in the town centre bounded by the ring road in order to provide access to the greatest number of people. As previously noted, the fixed charges are relatively low and probably do not affect users behaviour.
What should we be aiming for?
All current advice regarding town centre regeneration revolves around the ‘experience’ that visitors take away and pass on to their friends and neighbours. For a relaxed experience, for example, to visit an event or meeting, connect with friends or colleagues and then decide to have a coffee or meal - 3 hours is simply not enough.
This unnecessary limitation produces the need to either:
- disrupt your day in order to move the car;
- or to cut short the experience
- or to live with the fear of receiving a substantial penalty notice.
None of these are conducive to a pleasant experience from visiting Dewsbury and the council should be aiming to remove these limitations to the regeneration of Dewsbury.
Specific Proposals to support regeneration in Dewsbury
1. Charges to be removed after 3pm.
The town centre is quiet on most days after this time and this will encourage people to visit in the afternoon. This proposal is being adopted by many towns across the UK.
2. Develop Dewsbury as a ‘Park & Ride’ destination.
- Designate Cliffe Street as a Park & Ride car park with a small flat rate charge for unlimited parking each day to fund necessary costs and the rerouting of the bus.
- reroute the Free Town Bus to serve Cliffe Street car park and Increase the frequency in order to overcome the reluctance of the elderly and infirm from tackling the off-putting hill.
- Dramatically improve the signage to Cliffe Street for vehicles arriving at Dewsbury ring road from all directions.
- Improve the appearance of the pedestrian ‘gateway’ to Dewsbury from Cliffe Street.
3. Ease the Load on Business
For those businesses in town who have staff or business requirments for parking this could save them £1,000 per year per car.
Rather than leave an asset unused and empty why not make it attractive for use and ease problems elsewhere in the town. Cliffe Street will not suit everyone but it will draw some parking out of the town centre and help the council to implement good housekeeping in the town centre where business vehicles are frequently parked in inappropriate locations.
The council should take a positive attitude to providing solutions rather than simply implementing rules. Being seen to provide a solution even if the solution is not perfect makes the enforcement of rules much more acceptable.
4. Cooperation regarding business requirements
Many businesses have premises bounded by double yellow lines - or have activities requiring their customers to carry heavy equipment meaning they have to to park outside for loading and unloading. Businesses should be allowed a limited time to complete the essential task without being hassled.
Council staff should develop a supportive relationship with such businesses and avoid aggressive ticketing. A supportive approach means taking into account the needs of individual businesses, particularly CICs and other community oriented organisations. The High Street Report draws attention to the need to incorporate community organisations into town centres.
5. Out of town rail traveller parking
It is known that some Leeds-Huddersfield-Manchester rail commuters drive from Leeds to Dewsbury to obtain station parking in Dewsbury cheaper than is available in Leeds - before taking the train to destinations further west.
- Market Cliffe Street to these potential users as the lowest cost Park & Ride solution to their problem. Connect to the station using the free town bus or only 8 minutes to walk to the station.
- This would release the already limited parking in the station car parks for rail travellers living and departing from Dewsbury.
- Provide a clearly signposted pedestrian route to the station down Crackenedge Lane and Corporation Street. This will bring them right past the market and through the heart of the town centre. Do not send them around the ring road which has nothing to offer except fumes.
6. Review the role of the relevant council staff.
At present parking attendants are perceived as aggressive implementers of council policy. It would be preferable for all concerned including the council if they were seen as problem solvers and supporters of the local community. Rebranding, perhaps as Community Support Officers, and customer service retraining may be necessary.
7. .. and avoid aggressive ticketing.
8. Clean up for a major gateway to Dewsbury
If Cliffe Street were to become the major visitor/shopper destination car park for Dewsbury then the council needs to consider the condition of the buildings and environment in what then becomes a major gateway to the town.
Similarly, it needs a clearly defined 'safe path' for pedestrians and the disabled to and from the town centre.
9. Disabled parking
It then becomes sensible to move the Mobility Centre to the car park. Disabled drivers would not then have to hunt for a parking space close to the Walsh Building but would have easy parking in Cliffe Street and an immediate transfer to a mobility scooter - and a clearly marked safe route into the market and the town centre
Revenue to the council from parking charges should not be seen as a relevant issue
The problem around parking is about how to support the town - not to generate revenue. The council already recognises the benefit to the town of free parking by providing 3 hours free parking in Cliffe Street with a voucher scheme while illogically maintaining a policy of penalising those who overstay in a car park that the council itself considers to be superfluous.
The benefit to the town of encouraging people to visit and stay far outweigh any financial loss to the council.
By applying penalties everywhere the council attracts criticism to itself and the community perceives the council and the attendants to be the problem.
The town centre is ringed by supermarkets with substantial free parking for periods up to 3 hours. The council itself already provides up to 3 hours free parking in Cliffe Street which remains the large parking location nearest to the Market that the council wishes to revive.
Yet all of these parking locations apply substantial penalties for overstayers - even when parked in locations that the council has designated as surplus.
The High Street Report of Dec 2018 recommends that councils review parking in order to avoid erecting barriers to visitors. While Cliffe Street is not the most convenient location and also suffers from being located on a hill, it is the only car park by which the council can influence visitor behaviour in Dewsbury and this is a matter of making the best use of what we have available.
Cliffe Street is a resource that the council is not utilising for the benefit of the town when it could be a substantial asset.
The council needs to adopt a welcoming and supportive strategy for businesses, residents and visitors to Dewsbury.