Parking row that pitches business against local residents escalates

    Dr Joseph Perera

    The BATTLE lines have been drawn over council plans to greatly restrict parking across swathes of Tunbridge Wells in order to favour those with residents’ permits.

    Business owners warn the impact on their trade and while their customers have found themselves up against resident’s associations who support the proposals that will affect approximately 40 roads in the town.

    Interest over changes to Zone A and C parking has been so great that the council extended the consultation deadline until January 31 so more people could submit their views. A council spokesman said they have received ‘just over’ 450 responses, so far.

    One businessman based on Warwick Park has described the plans as ‘totally ludicrous’ and said they may force him to close his practice.

    The proposed changes involve standardising the various parking restrictions to ‘permit holders only’ from Monday to Saturday 8am to noon and 3pm to 8pm (or 7pm on some roads) and Sunday 11am to 3pm.

    In effect, the changes will result in parking for shoppers and visitors on most roads limited to just three hours in the middle of the day, as opposed to the current option of a two hour slot at any time.

    Dr Joseph Perera, Principal Dentist and owner of Warwick Park Dental Practice, has strongly criticised the plans and in a letter to patients encouraged them to ‘express their objections’.

    He said: “Almost all of our patients find the current two hour slot very helpful, allowing them easy access to the practice. It is also used by people to visit the local shops and businesses in The Pantiles area.

    “This will have a devastating effect on the future running of the practice and as a business I am greatly concerned that we will be forced to shut down”

    “Should it [the changes] go ahead, it would impact patient’s access immensely as many of them are elderly. It will also have a huge impact on numerous local businesses, making it very difficult for their staff and customers to access the area.

    “This will have a devastating effect on the future running of the practice and as a business I am greatly concerned that we will be forced to shut down.”

    Dr Perera believes the current arrangements have ‘worked fine’ for both the practice and residents for 30 years and questioned the rational of a ‘blanket approach’.

    In order to support his case, he had staff members conduct a survey of the surrounding roads which will be affected by the changes to see how many of the properties have off street parking.

    They found large disparities with some streets, such as Linden Park Road, recorded as having 100 per cent of its 50 houses having driveways capable of parking anywhere between 1-5 cars.

    On the other hand only five per cent of the 60 houses on Guildford Road have off street parking. In Warwick Park, where the practice is based, 70 per cent of homes have a driveway.

    Dr Perera said: “Any parking proposal amendment should be made on a road by road basis and not a blanket proposal. The demands from some residents are totally ludicrous and unreasonable.”

    However, the proposals have found strong support among members of the Warwick Park Area Residents’ Association (WPARA), which covers numerous streets within Zone A.

    Association head, Anthony Pawson said: “WPARA wholly supports the principle behind the proposed changes to Zone A parking restriction times: the use of roads in the area as free car parks by commuters and other long-stayers makes life increasingly difficult for residents, as noted in the Borough Council’s Parking Strategy, and, having consulted residents, supports the proposals for the roads in our area.

    Mr Pawson added that his ‘personal evaluation’ is that for The Pantiles area to thrive, it needs adequate and convenient car parking capacity into the longer term, and that the existing spaces are not viable in the long run.

    He said: “Personally, I think we should extend significantly the car park on the town end of the Common opposite The Pantiles and accept, exceptionally, the loss of that part of the Common.”

     

    The Council’s position:

    A council spokesman said: “In the Council’s Parking Strategy we explained the measures we hoped to implement following feedback from residents who were asking for changes to permit only hours to make it easier for them to park near their homes. We published a draft and consulted on the strategy before it received final approval.

    “The current consultations are the first step in implementing these measures. We have received a lot of responses and given that people may have been away or businesses closed over the Christmas and New Year we are extending the consultation period until 31 January to ensure that everyone who wants to is able to respond.”

    It is understood by the Times that a decision on whether or not to implement the changes will be made between April and August.

     

    The Warwick Park resident

    Kelly Parker, 36, who has lived almost adjacent to the Dental Practice for three years has mixed views on the proposed changes.

    She said: “As we have a parking space on our drive it doesn’t affect us a great deal. We do get a lot of people parking on our street to go to The Pantiles, but we already have a two hour non-residents parking restriction in our area so in theory there is a high turnover of spaces.

    “I guess they are trying to prevent the commuters from staying all day, which they do further up the road where there are fewer restrictions.

    “I don’t want shops on The Pantiles to lose business due to a lack of access. But we do need a long term resolution for the commuters – particularly with so many coming over from the Southern railways catchment area. Commuters are important for the town’s finances so they should also be kept happy.”