It's not simply a parking problem
PUBLISHED: 12:51 01 February 2008 | UPDATED: 11:23 29 April 2010
I NOTE Samuel Breakspeare s interest in solving the problems of Wisbech Market Place is limited to a quick scan of the council report recently produced. Had he have forsaken the comfort of his warm keyboard and hot coffee, and attended the consultation me
I NOTE Samuel Breakspeare's interest in solving the problems of Wisbech Market Place is limited to a quick scan of the council report recently produced.
Had he have forsaken the comfort of his warm keyboard and hot coffee, and attended the consultation meetings, he would be better informed.
Although I represented no-one, other than shoppers who are the last to be considered, you would realise that I was the only person, other than panel members, who thought the future of our town important enough to attend both the consultation meeting in full.
Even many of the business people, who consider it essential for drivers to be able to drive right up to their counters, popped in for only fleeting visits. But they knew they could rely on their friendly councillors to support their vested interests.
So, the solution to the problem of too many vehicles in the market place is to invite in yet more. Alice in Wonderland couldn't have done better. But, wait for it, this panel can.
They are also proposing to open up a rat run for through- traffic along the south side of the Market Place.
So, you are on the town bridge and you want to go to Church Terrace, Church Terrace car park, Norfolk Street, West Street, the east end of Victoria Road, Elm Road and beyond, you are going to choose to negotiate a busy roundabout, a dangerous zebra crossing, another pedestrian crossing and one, or two sets of traffic lights rather than nipping through the Market Place. I think not. Don't forget it is also planned to close Post Office Lane to traffic.
Perhaps they will rename the south side of the Market Place the Churchhill Road Relief Road.
It will be a favourite run for the youngsters who "cruise" not going anywhere in particular, whose sound systems often appear to be worth more than the cars in which they are installed.
This is not simply a parking problem. It is a problem of too many vehicles. The only way to improve matters is to restrict vehicle access during peak shopping periods.
And that's why I got involved. I saw, while on holiday in Durham, a scheme that could be ideal for Wisbech. The Durham scheme charges all vehicles using the centre of the city during peak periods by means of a rising bollard which is lowered only on payment when exiting. It has reduced traffic in the controlled zone by 85 per cent. It is largely self policing. Research into the Durham scheme, conducted by the Open University, reveals, and I quote: "The Durham congestion-charging scheme appears remarkably successful since it achieved its major objective of reducing traffic."
This is certainly never said about the present Wisbech scheme and will, I fear, never be said about the planned scheme. Wisbech will continue to be the laughing stock of the region.
All my research, together with supporting evidence available on the internet, was in the hands of the leader of Fenland Council last March and has been widely distributed around the members and officers of the council and members of the panel. Not a single one of those making this momentous decision on the future of our town has bothered to visit the Durham scheme (Apex rail fair £19 return, two hours 20 minutes).
Many of the panel, especially some of the council officers, appeared to have preconceived ideas.
The public meeting was adamant that they wanted pedestrianisation.
After the Conservatives swept the board at last year's local elections a council leader promised in the press, that they would govern for the whole community and not just their supporters. That horse has certainly fallen at the first hurdle.
So, Mr Brakespeare, who is this John Smith? He is a "concerned resident" who represents no one in particular, only the down trodden, or in this case run-down shoppers, who after all are the only ones who actually make Wisbech Market Place viable.
Two words spring to mind with regard to this project. They are Titanic and deckchairs.
I FIND it unbelievable that parking is now on the agenda for Wisbech Market Place when every public consultation has shown that the shoppers wanted complete pedestrianisation.
Why is it that government at all levels ignores the will of the people?
When someone gets injured, or worse, will the ratepayers have to cough up for damages.
Or can we sue the councillors individually?
Most towns throughout the country have pedestrianised centres. In fact King's Lynn, which is pedestrianised, appears to be thriving, with pay parking and the streets not cluttered with disabled parking.
If they allow vehicles to drive along the south side of Wisbech Market Place, looking for an empty parking bay, will the drivers be concentrating on where they are going? Presumably with no vehicles parked in Hill Street they will drive there faster.
Why does Wisbech, with its pathetic selection of shops, feel it is wise to buck the trend? I don't know who is so desperate to allow through traffic, but they will come to regret their decision.
What we really need is some decent shops.