I suppose, like many residents, I was both disappointed but not really surprised to read that Rye Town Council had yet again baulked at supporting the introduction of Civil Parking Enforcement as a solution for the chaotic parking situation in the town. Needless to say, expecting Rother District Council to address the problem would be whistling in the wind.
Can I therefore float an alternative idea for consideration through your column?
In October 2002 Durham County Council implemented a congestion charge for traffic entering the historic Durham City peninsular, an area similar in many ways to Rye’s citadel. Their aim was to reduce traffic congestion and pollution, and improve air quality in the peninsula. They also wanted to encourage out-of-hours use of the area as well as creating safer and more attractive streets for everyone. The charge they made is £2 per vehicle entering the peninsular between the hours of 10am and 4pm, Monday to Saturday, with some exemptions including for local residents. It is now policed using an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera at the one entrance to the peninsular.
It was specifically designed to protect the historic centre of the city, which includes Durham Cathedral and Durham Castle, from large numbers of tourists in cars by encouraging them to park elsewhere and walk. It is credited with reducing traffic on the road by a staggering 85%, indicating how little real benefit was gained from most motorists driving on the road (and with vehicle numbers cut to less than 600 per day) and at the same time increasing pedestrian traffic by 10%. The £2 charge generated enough income to subsidise an enhanced cathedral bus service and supported a Shopmobility scheme.
Further details of the scheme can be found on the websites of the Chartered Institution of Highways and Transportation and Durham County Council.
I can’t help thinking that the implementation of a similar scheme in the Rye citadel would have a number of benefits without the problems that a full pedestrianisation would bring. An ANPR camera could be installed at the Landgate and, if Mermaid Street were to be made one way down to the Strand, that would be the only entrance to the citadel. The Rye Neighbourhood Plan (at clause 51.40) offers a vision for “Improvements to certain Inner Locations” which includes the creation of a “Shared Space” in the High Street, but notes that “the courage to explore and refine new solutions” is required. The implementation of congestion charging could be such a new solution and a first step toward creating the Shared Space as well as providing the other benefits listed above.
However, I note that to complete the project in Durham there was “a strong political will to resolve the growing problem, together with support from the main commercial organisations”. I rather guess that that alone means that there is little chance of such an innovative scheme being adopted in Rye.