Thatcham Town Council assesses car parking scheme promoting active travel for school runs from West Berkshire Council
A new parking permit scheme may be coming to Thatcham to encourage more active travel for school runs.
The potential parking scheme will offer Thatcham schools a 'Park and Stride' style of transportation.
The request has come from West Berkshire Council to pilot the scheme at Old Bluecoat School and Dunstan Green public open space car parks.
Both the car parks are located somewhat near Kennet School and Francis Baily School.
These two locations have been selected to alleviate the parking pressures felt by parents who may currently be parking in dangerous spots or walking greater distances.
Thatcham councillors assessed how this may work for the town in a recent working party council meeting.
Councillor Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) said that this scheme will help a “proportion of parents with pressures of time or other outside commitments” who may find it difficult to promote active travel or walk their children to school.
He said: “From being chair of Francis Baily School a number of years ago since my time parking around that school has been dreadful, this really is an attempt to help the school cater for parents.”
He noted that parents are currently having to park along the A4, which was a safety concern for the school.
Councillor Simon Pike (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) raised the issue of the distance from the car parks in question to schools.
There was confusion among councillors as to what the permits entailed and it was suggested that they request further clarification from West Berkshire Council.
Mr Pike also noted that, allocating permits for car parks that are open for all may lead to potential disputes between parents on the school run and drivers sharing the space for other general usage.
He said: “As far as I am aware, parking in neither of these areas is restricted, so what I am worried about is West Berkshire Council, through the school, will advertise the presence of these and then will issue a permit that has no status for people because they are not restricted car parks.”
He also questioned the very nature of offering car park spaces in a bid to promote active travel.
“I am not sure how providing car parks is a measure to promote active travel which is suggested by West Berkshire Council.”
Though he added: “I don’t have any difficulty with the principle but I am not sure the concept has been taken from another location where it might have been developed and then imported onto this location - but it hasn’t been thought through for this particular location.”
Councillor Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem, Thatcham Central) echoed concerns surrounding parking priorities, saying: “My concern about this is very much the point that Councillor Pike is making, that is that I think you have got West Berkshire Council trying to turn something into a very formal scheme, if you’re giving someone a car parking permit, you would think that has the implication you have the right to park there.”
He also questioned the number of places that may be allocated and said: “Does that mean other people can’t drop their kids off on a rainy day and say you walk the rest?”
However Mr Ardagh-Walter said that the permits in question may be simply in reference to general allocated parking times rather than specifically designated permits.
He said: “I believed it was around the idea of allowing school drop off and pick up at specific slots during the school day. I would urge members to please be aware that there is a major safety-related as well as child health-related issue around parking around Francis Baily and I do hope we can help them.”
Councillor Mike Cole (Lib Dem, Thatcham North East) called the current parking situation an “accident waiting to happen” but raised concern over the financial aspect of the potential scheme.
He said: “I don’t have any problem personally with the Dunstan Green car park, that’s owned by us, that’s maintained by us, and I personally think it would be an extremely good use of that space for relatively limited times.
“My concerns were on behalf of the Bluecoats school.”
He questioned who will be “picking up the tab” for maintenance of the car parking space.
Councillor Keith Woodhams (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) added that the Old Bluecoats School charity has already raised issue over current damages to the car park's fence, rails and grass, which is parked on when the car park reaches full capacity.
Mr Jeffery said: “We need to get a lot more detail from West Berkshire Council as to what they want to do, how they’re going to make it work and how they’re putting money into the repair maintenance.
“I don’t think there is enough detail here. I certainly think we are not in a position to approve it as it stands.”
The council is now looking to “prepare a formal letter” to West Berkshire Council addressing their specific concerns with the scheme.