Mole Valley Council’s draft proposals for changes to parking regulations raise a number of serious implications in relation to the potential Sainsburys development in St Martins Walk. The draft parking strategy identifies the importance of this car park to the town centre in terms of size and location, yet it will be lost during any construction period and with it over 40% of the disabled parking within the High Street area, as well as parking for the precinct’s shops and businesses.
The draft also proposes St Martin’s Walk as one location for season-ticket and long-stay parking spaces, in order to free up spaces for town centre shoppers in other car parks - but for the period while St Martin’s is unavailable, this will not be possible and more of these spaces will have to be shifted to other car parks, potentially reducing the availability of short-term spaces for shoppers.
Furthermore, on-street parking for shoppers in the vicinity of the High Street is likely to be reduced by the proposed introduction of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ), since a proportion of the bays will be allocated exclusively to residents.
The following questions spring to mind:-
1. How will the reduced parking capacity during the period of any development of the St Martin’s Walk area impact on the ability of town centre users to park easily (and by implication, their ability to shop and spend money in the High Street)?
2. If shoppers have to drive round the town centre hunting for a parking space during the construction period, how will this affect the existing congestion problems (without even considering those that may be created by construction traffic)? And will shoppers persist, or go elsewhere?
3. What will happen about the reduction in disabled provision while St Martin’s Walk is unavailable? (the draft parking proposals note that existing disabled parking "appears generally well-used" and "in narrow parts of the High Street can cause congestion").
4. Will any new development have sufficient spaces to support the provisions of the draft parking proposals, cater for town centre shoppers, and also for those shoppers who come just to shop at the supermarket (which, given the current limited appeal of the High Street in terms of variety of retail outlets, may be a significant number)?
5. If the development goes ahead, who will the new car park belong to - Mole Valley (as at present) or Sainsburys - and who will set the charges?
A planning application has yet to be submitted by Thornfield (Sainsbury’s developer), and MVDC is in the process of seeking opinion from ‘resident associations, community groups, businesses and anyone with an interest in parking issues in Mole Valley’ on the draft proposals - we should be asking them these questions.