Shaftesbury Town Council will meet with traders and Dorset Highways to discuss High Street traffic problems caused by unloading, inconsiderate or illegal parking.
When cars or lorries stop in the so-called ‘Narrows’ stretch of Shaftesbury High Street near to the Muston’s Lane junction, larger vehicles cannot easily pass. When queues form, some drivers mount the kerb to pass the obstruction and that has raised concerns over pedestrian safety.
On Tuesday, town councillors debated adding yellow ‘blips’ to the kerb. Dorset Highways made this suggestion back in March. Seven sets of blips could be painted on one side of the High Street, between Boots and Shaftesbury Wines. These markings would prohibit unloading at restricted times displayed on a sign. Passengers can be dropped off but drivers cannot park there, even if they hold a blue badge. Existing on-street High Street parking spaces would be unaffected.
The Town Council deferred making a decision on blips in the spring, because they wanted evidence of a problem. Town Council Business Manager Brie Logan explained that a professional parking survey commissioned for the Neighbourhood Plan has since reported, “elements of parking abuse on double yellows which impacts on traffic flow” on the High Street.
But Cllr Matthew Welch warned of potentially dire consequences of these blips hampering easy goods delivery. “We have got a lot of High Street shops along the area that they wanted to put blips in. For the delivery trucks to park elsewhere and carry their goods down the town would have a severe effect on the businesses here,” said Matthew. “I personally believe it would be the death at the High Street if that happened. It would really destroy trade.”
“If the High Street is not congested, it is dead,” added Cllr Phil Proctor. He has a different view to some of his fellow councillors. “What is the problem with the cars being parked there? It makes you travel slowly,” he said.
Cllr Hollingshead said the downside was that, “large vehicles, particularly buses, try to get through. When someone driving down the High Street doesn’t see them, they get stuck. It happens frequently.” He recalled a recent day when, “there must have been half a dozen cars and delivery trucks parked on the yellow lines outside M&Co and Boots,” Andy observed.
Cllr Proctor suggested the potential solution of creating effectively a bus station on part of the car park near the Kings Arms pub, presumably to keep buses out of the High Street. It is not a new idea. Neither is introducing one-way traffic or the part pedestrianisation of the High Street. Both solutions were briefly revisited during Tuesday’s meeting.
Cllr Alex Chase thought that a no entry sign at the pinch point of The Narrows and at the bottom of the High Street could offer a solution but Cllr Hollingshead advised that the Chamber of Commerce was, “completely and utterly opposed to it.” The traders’ group has previously said that shops value easy access and they need the passing trade.
Cllr Proctor said that the existing yellow lines could be used to tackle drivers who are parking illegally. “We have already got the means to book them,” he said.
Cllr Andy Hollingshead agreed that the blips, “would make no difference” while there was “zero enforcement” of evening parking violations. “Every night, from around 4.45pm, there are five or six cars outside the takeaways,” said Andy. He said that some of the traffic wardens travel from Weymouth and they, “knock off at about 5pm.” He felt that blips could be ineffective. “We’ll just end up with some ugly extra yellow lines painted on the pavement.” Blips needed to go hand in hand with enforcement and education, Andy said.
The Planning and Highways Committee turned down the offer of blips, but they will invite the Dorset Highways team to discuss High Street traffic issues and present their solutions. “We could ask them if they’d consider how they could support the town by enforcing parking on double yellows, out-of-hours,” suggested Cllr Hollingshead. “Either we pay for some form of traffic warden management to issue tickets outside the normal hours, which is roughly 8.30am to 4.30pm, or Dorset come forward with another proposal,” continued Cllr Hollingshead.
He thinks that out-of-hours enforcement could be introduced for a measured period of three to six months. “If it makes a difference, that’s a solution. If it doesn’t, we can revisit it,” Andy said.
Mayor Tim Cook said he was happy to invite the Chamber of Commerce and to have, “dialogue with many different organisations” when, and if, Dorset Highways take up the offer of a meeting.