Tuesday 9 February 2010

Parking facilities in Deptford

With all the market traders and shops in Deptford displaying posters complaining about the new Controlled Parking Zone, I decided to do a bit of investigation to try and establish why they are so upset. Are the new parking facilities affecting trade as much as they claim, or is it simply the case that any change to parking availability and regulation is unpopular and there has been a drop in trade for other reasons?

I'm sure many people feel strongly that shoppers should be encouraged to come on foot, by public transport or by bike to Deptford High Street - and I agree wholeheartedly with this sentiment. The recent refurbishment of Frankham Street into a 'parking boulevard' (more of that later) was particularly notable for the fact that it was aimed squarely at motorists. For a borough that likes to claim its green credentials, the council totally failed to take the opportunity to improve the facilities for cyclists. Yes, we do have some bike racks already, but turning a couple of the parking spaces in the boulevard over to bike racks would have sent a much more positive message in this regard.

But on the other side of the coin, I do think that if we want our market and independent shops to survive, there is also a strong case for provision of car parking. Many people come to the market and the high street to do their weekly shop, and if you have more than a couple of mouths to feed, this can mean some serious baggage. As someone who lives a few minutes' walk from the high street and has a household of two to provision, even I struggle home with my bags when I have to shop solo. The range of shops and stalls on the high street means that most people can buy everything they need here, which is why they come. And have you seen the size of some of the sacks of rice in Housewives?!

But I digress.

Parking in Deptford has undergone a number of changes over the last year or so, and there are signs that it's not over yet. The loss of Giffin Street car park, the introduction of the Controlled Parking Zone and the creation of our famous boulevard have all had an impact one way or another. The council has also been (somewhat sneakily, it has to be said) trialling a new method of parking enforcement using cameras rather than traffic wardens.

I understand there are also tentative plans to get rid of Frankham Street car park (not the boulevard) which are under consideration at the moment.

All this change has introduced uncertainty and confusion for motorists, and unfortunately does not appear to be happening within any overall strategic plan. I could be wrong about this, of course, perhaps the council is merely failing to communicate its strategy clearly.

Let's take the Giffin Street/CPZ/boulevard situation first of all.

Giffin Street car park was closed to enable the construction of the new Tidemill School/Deptford Lounge building.

According to the council, the 'parking boulevard' was intended to replace this facility.

Giffin Street car park provided 71 spaces. The charge was 90p per hour, with a maximum stay of 6 hours. Charges were in force Mon-Sat 8am-6.30pm.

Frankham Street car park (NOT the boulevard) levels the same charges over the same hours for its 55 spaces.

The boulevard, by contrast, is regarded as 'street' parking and hence attracts an increased parking charge, although you wouldn't know this until/unless you went to the ticket machine and read the very small writing on it. The charge for the boulevard is 25p per 15 minutes, making it an hourly charge of £1. It has approximately 120 parking spaces, and about 8 disabled parking spaces.

The charging regime has the benefit of offering a minimum charge of 25p as opposed to 90p, for anyone wanting a short stay. Charging does not start until 9am and finishes at 6pm, and there is also free parking on Saturday afternoon from 1.30pm onwards. However these spaces do have a maximum stay of four hours.

At the moment the difference in charges between the two parking areas on Frankham Street is anything but clear. The machines on the boulevard dispense the more expensive (but cheaper for short stay) tickets meant for the boulevard. But a big sign in front of the car park, which faces the boulevard, declares the 90p/hour rate and the machine next to it dispenses these tickets. There is no indication for motorists that the different charges apply depending on where you are parked. I wonder if anyone has been fined for buying a ticket at the Frankham Street car park machine and using it on a car in a boulevard bay?

The Controlled Parking Zone is a different kettle of fish altogether. It mainly covers Giffin Street and Reginald Road, and is intended to prevent commuter parking on these roads, and give priority to residents and businesses in Deptford. Residents and businesses now have to buy permits to park there, and the zone operates from 9-6 on Monday to Friday, and Saturday morning till 1.30pm. Residents can also buy visitor permits - for long stays they are cheaper than using the public parking spaces - although they have to go to Lewisham to do this which must be pretty inconvenient. Market traders can still park for free in certain roads, and there is a separate car park solely for market traders in Hamilton Street - although no-one could blame them for not wanting to park there since it looks more like a rubbish dump than a car park.

Market traders are unhappy with the new parking arrangements; they believe that the one-way system which is now in operation around Frankham Street is annoying and inconvenient for drivers and that the parking area needs better signage. Moreover they believe that the footfall on Saturday mornings is reduced because people are waiting for the afternoon (and the free parking) to come to the high street and do their shopping. This is difficult for the post-market clean-up since some traders want to keep their pitches up longer for the afternoon shoppers. If the weather is bad, people just don't bother coming at all.

Traders suggest having a free stay of up to 2 hours in the car parking areas on market days, and/or making Saturday morning parking free rather than Saturday afternoon.

I don't really think the first point is valid - if drivers can cope with the High Street being shut to vehicles, they can soon get used to the one-way system. However I do have some sympathy with the second point about shoppers coming later in the day and market stalls missing out on the trade. It seems rather irrational to only charge for half the day on Saturdays - either impose charges all day, or none of the day. The current regime does seem to penalise the stall holders.

I know that the subject of parking control does tend to galvanise people; so comments please!


Marmoset said...

As I only ever use bike or foot to get to the High Street, I haven't personally noticed any great difference. The one-way system is probably a bit confusing at first for shoppers arriving by car from the north (Creek Road) because the access to Frankham Street is on the south-bound carriageway of Church Street: you would have to drive past the old Giffen Street access and do a U-turn at the Birds Nest roundabout to get in. So, yes, it's confusing for the 1st time visitor but people adapt and learn - I would think that any drop off in trade would most likely be due to post-Christmas/recession/unusually cold weather.

It's a shame that public transport users have no closer bus access than Church Street - but I can't see how it could be made more bus friendly - there simply isn't room.

It's odd that there are 2 different parking regimes for Frankham Street Boulevard and Frankham Street car park. Maybe the council have kept the old charges as a legacy rate until that land gets redeveloped. I think that could confuse drivers.

Anonymous said...

The Sustainable Development Committee, which I chair, has been undertaking a review of street markets in the borough and as part of that we had meetings with market traders from Deptford, Catford and Lewisham. At the Deptford meeting there was a big and very vocal turnout and traders politely but plainly made it very clear that the parking was having a big impact on their trade. This was backed up by the street trading officers, who confirmed that a number of traders had given up their pitches as a result and more would do soon if prompt action wasn't taken to alleviate the situation.

I arranged a meeting with the Deputy Mayor, highways officers and representatives from the Deptford market traders. At the meeting highways agreed to lift the parking restrictions on one half of Frankham Street, pending the results of a review of the CPZ, which should be completed shortly. Traders seemed happy that this would ease things in the short term.

While the majority of their customers come on foot/public transport and live fairly locally, those coming by car are often buying in bulk and this is where they make the profit.

We got lots of other interesting feedback from traders and residents and should be finalising our report in March. I'll post something about it on my blog when it's ready.

(Never thought when I got elected as a Green Party councillor that I would spend so much time dealing with parking and other car-related issues!)

shipwright's palace said...

whilst we are on the subject of what is essentially a car/traffic issue my we include the consideration of the early morning rat run up through Giffin Street into the high street and up Edward Street. Tuesday's Evening Standard included an article on pollution in LOndon. If the new school is to be in Giffin Street this issue of early morning rat run will need to be addressed. Quite simply Lewisham could make the north end of the high street one way moving South from say 6.30am to 10.30 am. No more rat run traffic affecting both Tidemill and and St. Joseph schools and the high sreet residents. apologies for going off the main topic.

Deptford Dame said...

Thanks Sue for the additional info. I did see the report from your meeting with the traders, but didn't know what had happened since.

No apology needed shipwright, although you did rather anticipate one of my following posts!