More vehicles are parking on Park Walk, but the space is a scheduled monument, not designed for traffic and there are concerns about the safety of children who play along the promenade.
On Tuesday evening, Shaftesbury Town Council discussed ways to tackle the issue. ThisIsAlfred discovered that there’s no straightforward solution.
Drivers are parking their cars and vans on Park Walk, and Shaftesbury Tree Group member, Sue Clifford, is concerned. “It’s an archaeological site of great importance,” Sue said.
Councillor George Hall chaired Tuesday’s Town Council, which discussed the issue. George said that up to ten vehicles had been counted there and he wants the practice to stop. “What we can’t have is Park Walk turning into a car park because there are a huge number of kids that use it as a great recreational space. There are bikes, dogs, ball games, scooters, rollerbladers and you just can’t have an excess number of cars parking there. The possibility of accidents grows exponentially,” said George.
Councillor Hall says that residents have contacted him to complaint about driving along Park Walk. “Back in the summer, I was approached by a couple of people who said that there were too many cars parking on there,” George said. For a time, he approached drivers and asked them not to leave their vehicles on Park Walk.
Sue believes that when motorists see a vehicle on Park Walk, they assume that they can park there too. “What has started to happen is that people have made an assumption that because there may be one or two cars parked there for work reasons, or very specific Abbey purposes, they can park there too. Over the summer, I was quite horrified by the number of people who just drove along. It’s so dangerous,” said Sue.
You might think that blocking the entrance to vehicles that want to enter Park Walk from Abbey Walk would be the most straightforward solution. Councillors discussed this option, but it’s problematic. Access has to be maintained for emergency vehicles or for events like Remembrance Sunday or the Gold Hill Fair.
There are road regulations to consider, too. Abbey Walk is a classified as a highway and it can’t be blocked with a fixed barrier. The Council can’t put one at the end of Abbey Walk, where Park Walk starts, either. That’s because Park Walk’s Scheduled Ancient Monument listing applies from this point and there are strict rules on what can be placed there.
“It’s one of those quirks,” said George. “You have got the highway, and obviously you can’t build anything on a highway. And on the other side of that line is the Ancient Monument. You can’t build on there. You can’t dig there. You can’t go below the surface. We can’t put anything into the walls because they’re listed. We can’t put anything into the floor. So what we have to do is put things on the top, on the Park Walk side.”
The Town Council used to deter parking through the use of wheel clamps. This was briefly debated in this week’s meeting, but it’s not an option now. New warning signs would have to be erected. They are considered ugly, and the clamping rules have changed. Councillors also discussed and rejected introducing road humps.
The Town Clerk will report back to the Town Council after researching three options. Claire Commons will investigate adding road markings. She’ll also research whether there could be coloured bands painted onto the tarmac and she’ll look into Shaftesbury Tree Group member Bernard Ede’s idea. Mr Ede emailed to suggest that a partial obstruction could be created with a greensand plinth, similar to the planter at the top of Stony Path.
There have also been calls for the tarmac to be replaced by a softer surface. Bernard Ede has previously advocated the removal of the hard surface, because it can be harmful to the trees. George Hall isn’t convinced. “I’m not sure whether I would support that because of the way that the space is used, whether it is Gold Hill Fair or the kids on Boxing Day, when they are learning to ride the bikes that they got for Christmas. So I’ll leave that decision for another day.”
Sue Clifford is hoping that the Council will find a common-sense solution. “I think we could probably find a simple way of stopping things. There used to be a chain across there,” she recalled.
In the meantime, signs will go up to advise motorists not to park on Park Walk. “As a temporary measure, we have got some signs and they will be put up to try and stop this before the tourism season starts,” George said.
That’s still not ideal, though. Tuesday’s meeting heard that it has been hard to find the perfect position for a sign that will be seen by drivers who want to turn the corner onto Park Walk. But Sue hopes that permanent and appropriately designed signage may provide the solution to the problem.
“It could be simple, lovely signs that just say ‘no access’ or something like that. We can do it. Come on!” Sue urged.