Parking and Traffic

Political comment by Richard Bird

This year’s heavier than normal influx of visitors has resulted in parking and traffic problems and Town and Around has received many phone calls, letters and other communications about this subject.

When I was newly installed to the office of County Councillor, some 6 years ago now, I was confronted almost immediately with the dictate from above that there had to be a review on parking, most specifically RESIDENTS PARKING and the charges to be made for them. The argument was that the parking schemes throughout the county were running in deficit and that Gt Yarmouth was subsidising the whole county and that wasn’t fair. The seaside resorts were chosen to be the guinea pigs, with Hunstanton, Cromer, Sheringham and others being put forward as potential financial contributors to this countywide scheme. I couldn’t stop it, it was already on the books for review, however what I could, and did, do was to make the whole concept democratically led. To this end some may remember the demonstrations at the Hunstanton Town Hall and the outcome of the referendum 2/3 against the scheme and 1/3 for the scheme. I distinctly remember being hit across the head by a demonstrator opposed to the scheme with a rather large placard!

The purpose of reminding folks about this is that we appear to be worse off than we were. With parking matters there are a few tools in the armoury, not just the yellow lines but also the introduction of cycle routes that have timed clearway benefits. When the cycle routes were put forward they were quickly perceived as a drawback rather than a benefit by the local population although they would have had the desired outcome, to stop parking in residential areas between given times, generally 9am to 5pm or whatever was required, they were rejected out of hand. Equally, the residential parking areas, that were voted down by residents, were lambasted because people said that it didn’t allow them to park directly outside their own homes although, in some cases, those households had too many cars to be able to do this regardless. The £50 annual charge was argued as too expensive especially by those households with more than one car. Incidentally £50 per year works out at 14pence a day. The biggest response came from the B&B business owners who objected on the grounds that it could spoil their livelihood opportunities, an argument that has credibility but the amount of B&B’s is by now quite small and there was a provision to allow guests to park close by, albeit at a small charge.

So where are we now? We have the Boro’ allowing some car parks to be built on reducing this option, we have our M.P. suggesting that we should all have staycations, encouraging more visitors than ever, to our seaside resorts. The national press promoting our ‘secret beaches’ in N.W.Norfolk. The A149 should have had by now, after the Dukes accident, speed controls operating, but for whatever reason these have not been implemented. The results are horrifying with above all other things, motorbike noise that resembles a race track some of the time and traffic backed up for miles others. The residents of N.W.Norfolk have been subjected to an incredible life changing set of events that can only be perceived as detrimental to them.

At the moment we have the most pro-active young and vivacious local M.P. in James Wild. He in turn can rely on my replacement at NCC, Andrew Jamison, Cabinet Member for Finance who is really trying very hard to change things for the better. I would suggest that what we need is some joined up policies and outcomes, we need some actions rather than speculation. Don’t get me wrong, I really support their ideas about: the rail link, the taming of the A149, the cycle and walkways recommendation, the college for training nurses and so much more but TALK IS CHEAP and residents’ lives are being blighted.

Lastly on this subject about joined up politics, we have received a press release from Old Hunstanton Parish Council stating that they are working on 20mph speed restrictions and other pro-active traffic issues; when I suggested that Hunstanton might do a similar review, one HTC councillor stated that there was no need, and she knew of no traffic problems in Hunstanton. Give me strength!

How many residents would now oppose ‘Residents Parking’? How many residents especially along Cliff Parade and Seagate Road would oppose a cycle lane along their roads?