Survey results in for High Street parking debate

There is concern removing free parking from Stevenage High Street could have a devastating impact on

Stevenage Old Town Business & Community Partnership has carried out a survey to gauge the feeling around parking and transport in the High Street - Credit: Louise McEvoy

Around 1,400 people have taken part in a survey to share their views on transport and parking in Stevenage's High Street, ahead of a public consultation set to be launched by Stevenage Borough Council this month. 

Carried out by the Stevenage Old Town Business & Community Partnership, the survey comes after concerns that free parking would be scrapped in the High Street as part of the council's bid to become one of Hertfordshire's first Sustainable Travel Towns.

Temporary seating area outside Cinnabar in Stevenage High Street, in place of parking bays

Temporary seating area outside Cinnabar in Stevenage High Street, in place of parking bays - Credit: Louise McEvoy

The scheme is aimed at shifting away from cars and towards walking, cycling and public transport.

Part of the criteria - set by Hertfordshire County Council - is to ensure no free parking in town centres, which under the scheme includes Stevenage Old Town High Street.

SOTBCP's own survey results show that 90 per cent of respondents believe free parking is essential to the continued success of the High Street.

Protesters against the loss of free parking in Stevenage Old Town High Street gathered on the Bowlin

Protesters against the loss of free parking in Stevenage Old Town High Street gathered on the Bowling Green earlier this year - Credit: Trevor Coultart Photography

One said: "Old town has one of the best High Steets in Herts. It's filled with great independent restaurants and shops.

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"Please keep it this way. Any changes, especially to parking, will lead to drop in footfall.

Another added: "The parking spaces are essential for using the High Street and therefore for the continued longevity of the shops and amenities on the High Street.

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"I want to support the High Street but live too far away to walk or cycle."

Generally, respondents felt that the addition of temporary outdoor seating has enhanced the appeal of the High Street and should be retained in some form.

Parking bays that have already been given over to seating areas include permanent fixtures outside Costa Coffee and temporary ones outside Misya, Angelique, Cinnabar - with one outside Wetherspoon reverted back to parking spaces last week. 

"I think the Old Town looks great with all the restaurants having seating outside even if that means losing some parking spaces," one person said.

Around 10 per cent of people responding to the survey supported the removal of all parking in the High Street. 

Some respondents also raised safety concerns for pedestrians, citing speeding cars, badly designed parking spaces and cyclists using pavements.

Fifty-five per cent of respondents said there was some level of risk when walking and 80 per cent felt there was a level of risk when cycling.

The report calls on Stevenage Borough Council to consult on making the High Street one way - continuing the existing one-way system from Trinity Road/Sish Lane as far as Drapers Way - and implementing a 20mph speed limit on that stretch. 

Other key recommendations include a two-way section from Drapers Way to James Way, and to continue with free parking in the High Street, with options for one, two or three hours parking limit. 

Cllr Lloyd Briscoe, executive member for transport, said: “We would like to thank the Stevenage Old Town Business Community Partnership for conducting this survey.

"We are pleased see two thirds of respondents support the removal of some parking bays to provide space for outdoor restaurants.

"It is positive to see that 69 per cent of respondents are satisfied with the current two or three hour limited waiting arrangements.

"The survey recommends that the parking bays in front of Wetherspoons be re-opened and this is something that we have already done.

“However, I am concerned to see that a majority of respondents have expressed that they feel pedestrians and cyclists are at risk in the High Street especially from cars entering and exiting parking.

"Any future changes in the High Street will need to prioritise the needs of pedestrians and cyclists in line with our Transport Strategy objectives.”

Businesses turned out in protest against the plans to abolish free parking in the High Street earlier this year due to concerns the plans would destroy local businesses. 

Stevenage Borough Council's consultation to capture views on the current High Street changes, and what people would like to see in the future is set to take place during October and November. 

Click here to read SOTBCP's full survey report.

For more information about Sustainable Transport Towns, click here.

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