PRESSURE ON "FREE" CAR PARKING I have been invited to a meeting next …

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I have been invited to a meeting next week to discuss the issue of car parks in Totton Town centre.

No decisions have been made yet and everything will have to go before a full Council meeting, but it's probably no surprise that one of the next things that is likely to be cut could be "free" car parking in Council owned car parks in Totton.

The situation is complicated because some car parks are privately owned (such as Asda, and those operated by the precinct owners). Obviously, privately owned car parks can be managed as the owners wish and this is usually done by restricting the hours a car can be parked (in order to keep spaces freed up for shoppers).

Other car parks in Totton are mostly owned by New Forest District Council. Some are free, but time restricted, others charge. Some are always full, others not (depending on location). One of the main car parks in central Totton is owned by the Town Council.

Unfortunately, there are two things happening that are forcing a review of car park operations. One of them is to do with finances. The squeeze in council budgets means that Councillors are looking at all areas of operations to make further and deeper cuts (or savings), or to increase income.

The second element is that there are just too many cars and insufficient spaces to accommodate them all. We know that many people use free Council car parks to park all day and sometimes commute into Southampton. This obviously leaves less spaces for shoppers or people wanting access local medical facilities or community buildings.

I have always strongly believed that it is necessary for us in Totton to provide some free parking to assist local retailers. Start charging and some people will simply decide to go elsewhere. We will then see local businesses fail.

Even enforcement of parking restrictions is a problem because it costs money, whether you go for a technical solution, or a team of enforcement officers.

On top of that, you have the problem that arises from introducing new charges in car parks… drivers start parking in nearby roads, often causing bother to residents or hazards at junctions.

You may agree with me that Totton is completely dominated by the car, to the extent that it is difficult to walk or cycle around. It could be argued that charges will act as an incentive for people to walk, cycle, scoot or use public transport, rather than take the car.

Coming up with a solution that is going to please everybody is a quite impossible task. Do you do the green thing, the most popular thing, the thing that brings in the most money, the thing that provides the best traffic management benefits? Not an easy task at all!

As always, I am quite prepared to listen to views, whatever your particular favoured stance might be.


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