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West Berkshire Council school run permit scheme decision deferred by Thatcham Town Council

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Thatcham Town Council has discussed reasons for and against introducing a pilot parking scheme to the town.

The potential new parking plan, which imitates the nationally adopted ‘Park and Stride’ scheme, was suggested by West Berkshire Council, but has been met with criticism.

The proposed pilot locations are the Old Bluecoat School and Dunstan Green public open space car parks.

The Old Bluecoats School car park has been named as a potential location for the new parking scheme in question
The Old Bluecoats School car park has been named as a potential location for the new parking scheme in question

The Old Bluecoat School car park will provide around 10 spaces and Dunstan Green six.

At a recreation and amenities meeting held on February 28, town councillors discussed issues that may arise from issuing a handful of designated parking permits.

Councillor Mark Lillycrop (Lib Dem, Thatcham West) said: “It’s more like a promotional permit rather than one that carries any weight. It doesn’t grant any priority over a particular space.

Dunstan Green car park
Dunstan Green car park

However, he said that the scheme does encourage parking in car parks away from “more hazardous” kerbsides.

Richard Crumly (Con, Thatcham Central) said that though he supports “anything that gets people off the roads”, there was an “awful lot of beaurocracy for spells of 45 minutes”.

He said: “I support this, I guess we should review it in six months to see how it’s working.”

As a representative of the Old Bluecoat School, meeting chairman Jeremy Cottam said that “quite a few concerns” have been raised by the charity regarding maintenance.

One f the potential parking locations in West Berkshire Councils proposed scheme
One f the potential parking locations in West Berkshire Councils proposed scheme

The Liberal Democrat councillor said: “We had a minor repair not long ago for £700.”

The council also heard that repairs to Dunstan Green car park are already starting to break down from heavy use due to schools, the skateboard ramp and general open space use.

Raising environmental concerns, Mr Cottam also said: “We declared a climate emergency and we are trying to encourage people to walk or cycle to the school.”

The Old Bluecoat School (46177776)
The Old Bluecoat School (46177776)

He referenced back to walking his own children to school, noting that it was not a long distance for young people.

“Unless it was a hurricane or blizzard, or combined, they walked,” he said.

Mr Cottam also raised concerns with the legal issues that may arise from assigning parking spaces to a particular group of people.

“If we are saying please park here to a group of people we start becoming responsible or libel for issues," he said. "Then there’s the conflict of interest.

“Walkers or younger children, maybe even disabled, who come and walk there may need the space and suddenly it’s taken up.”

He said that encouraging people to park in designated spaces will lead to heavier use, ultimately upping maintenance costs, which will fall on the school and charity.

Owen Jeffery (Lib Dem Thatcham Central) looked to the district authority for further action and said: “This is very typical West Berkshire Council issue, let’s look as though we are doing something when we are not actually doing something at all.”

The deputy council leader went on to say: “Old Bluecoat School, as a charity, should be indemnified by West Berkshire Council for regular maintenance if this is going to go ahead as a West Berkshire Council scheme.”

He said he does, however, agree with the concept, noting that not all parents live locally and may need to drop their children off on the way to work.

He said: “If you are getting them two thirds of the way there and then give out at Dunstan Green and walk the rest of the way to the school, I think that is a perfectly logical thing to be doing and that is a part of the green agenda.”

Though he agreed with the concept, the councillor called it a “cheeky proposal” on the part of West Berkshire Council.

He suggested it goes back to the drawing board and said: “I don’t think it has been thought through sufficiently hard and I think we should send this back to West Berkshire Council to say please think this through a bit harder because I don’t think you’re there yet.”

However Steve Ardagh-Walter (Con, Thatcham Colthrop and Crookham) who is also executive member for the environment at the district council, picked up on what he called a “slightly unfairly demonising of West Berkshire Council”, noting that the Kennet Academies Trust ought to join the conversation to reach a solution with both council bodies.

As a former Fracis Baily School governor, he also said: “The core problem is not West Berkshire Council or us, Thatcham Town Council, it’s parents who park and it would be lovely if somehow, and somewhere, there was a way to give an incentive or better option than people parking at school.

He added: “Perhaps in the spirit of cooperation it would be helpful for us to invite both Kennet and West Berkshire Council to look at better options, for Fracis Baily in particular.”

Though a decision has not yet been reached, chairman Jeremy Cottam concluded the meeting by deferring the discussion to allow for further information and contributions.

He told the working party that a meeting with West Berkshire Council and Kenent Academies Trust will be organised in the aim to reach a conclusion on the “tricky” scheme.

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