Readers of these columns will note that almost every week for the past few months we have carried an article or comments on parking and recently these have mainly been related to the problems at Camber.
A new system was introduced there this year, and run by an independent operator, which enabled users to enter the car park and then pay, rather than queuing at the gate to pay on entry. The intention was a good one – to remove, or at least reduce, the traffic congestion in the village at peak times in the summer, and to make parking, itself, simpler, quicker and hassle free.
Sadly it seems that this is a classic example of the old adage about the road to hell being paved with good intentions: the congestion on warm summer weekends is still apparent and cars still park (illegally) on verges and footpaths either because the car park is full or to avoid paying to park. And what of those who do use the car park and pay the fee? There are many instances (and those reported to us are almost certainly the tip of the iceberg) where visitors are being issued with penalty notices of £100 despite buying a ticket and not overstaying their time.
As a result Camber is starting to get a reputation for being a difficult, and potentially very expensive place to park and this, in turn, and as letters to Rye News demonstrate, is putting visitors off from returning. As our whole area benefits from a tourist-based economy, this is potentially serious and although Rother were, for once, trying to do the right thing, it is perhaps time to admit that the experiment, from the ugly signage to the modus operandi of the parking company needs to be examined and re-thought for next year.
Camber, of course, is not the only area of difficulty. In Rye, itself, parking has been a problem for some time. There is not only the problem of drivers totally ignoring all yellow lines and parking restriction signs (hopefully to be resolved in due course), but one of actually where to park. At this time of year, in particular, there is hardly a spot, legitimate or otherwise, to be had on the street and a walk round the town’s car parks will show them to be full. Even the largest in the market rarely has a spare space to be seen. The only exception is Gibbet Marsh which being not well signposted and, literally, the wrong side of the tracks, usually has spaces. This was brought home to one of Rye News’ regular correspondents the other day who, when attending a concert at the new venue at Rock Channel, found that, despite being a relatively small auditorium with limited seating, the car park, reserved for concert-goers was already full, and as his passenger was unable to walk far, and with no other parking available in the vicinity, he had to return home. This was not the concert organisers fault – they only had the space they had – but it goes to demonstrate the problem, simply a lack of space in a small town for an increasing number of vehicles.
Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), when introduced, will sort out the town centre mayhem, but will also put more pressure on existing car parks with the vehicles displaced from yellow lines requiring somewhere to stop. So what is the solution? Obviously additional car parks – but where? There are one or two small spaces dotted around the town that could cope with a few vehicles, but the biggest vacant area is, of course, the old lower school site off Ferry Road. One suggestion made a few years ago was that there should be a multi-story car park there (not that multi, probably ground plus one storey) which could be easily camouflaged by suitable planting. A footbridge over the railway would then provide quick and easy access to the town centre. It won’t happen, of course. The site will be filled with houses with, judging by past plans, almost certainly insufficient parking facilities, thus making the situation elsewhere, worse.
Another possible alternative is in Winchelsea Road opposite Strand Quay. There are two somewhat makeshift and scruffy car parks already there and two further sites comprising the old petrol station site and the Pine Warehouse. If these were all combined, smartened up and screened with planting, it would not only accomodate a large number of vehicles but be a much tidier entrance to the town than is currently the case. The snag, once again, is that part of the land is in the hands of developers (the same company that is building the five large terraced houses in Rock Channel – as yet unfinished and where building work gives the appearance of having stopped) who are understandably unlikely to release a prime development site for parking when it could return a healthy profit if used for housing.
So what is the answer? This writer certainly has no magic solution and it may in the end come down to Councils – both Town and District – being prepared to take brave decisions that could well prove unpopular for some.
Photo: Rye News library and John Minter
Image Credits: Kenneth Bird , John Minter .