Fri, 06 Dec 2019
CONTROVERSIAL plans to introduce parking charges at the Kennet Leisure Centre have been approved.
The charges will be implemented next year in an effort to discourage long-term parking at the centre.
The move has also been made as “the centre is at risk of losing members”.
The first two hours parking will be free and a ticket must be taken from the machine and displayed in the vehicle.
Parking for three hours will cost £1, but to park for more than three hours will cost £10.
Payments must be made by mobile phone only and drivers cannot return for four hours after their allocation expires.
Parking must be paid at the start of a stay and topping up is not permitted.
The council said that the centre had the highest level of attrition among members across the seven sites under its contract.
The most commonly cited reason for cancelling gym membership is reportedly difficulty over parking.
Indeed, a user survey conducted in 2017 showed that only 69 per cent were satisfied with car parking arrangements at the Kennet Leisure Centre compared to approximately 92 per cent at other facilities.
The council said that regular complaints came from older people who were advised to carry out physical activity at the centre, but were unable to because of a lack of parking.
It added that young disabled people had to be carried to the centre from nearby roads because disabled parking was not available.
Disabled users also said that they had abandoned any thoughts of visiting the centre as parking was often not available.
The council considered introducing pay and display parking at the site, but said this would have provided issues for the contractor in terms of refunding leisure centre users.
The centre car park has 78 parking spaces and Kennet School has access to 28 of those under a joint use agreement.
The council has agreed for Kennet to access the 28 spaces between 7am and 5.30pm to use on weekdays during term time.
The former head of Kennet School, Paul Dick, said in 2014 that only a handful of school staff were parking over the allocation – but only because leisure centre customers had parked in school spaces.
“Given the previous head’s standing in the community this has to be believed,” the council said, “therefore the plan should not have any impact on teaching staff.”
Mr Dick said that any move to enforce the car park would lead to the school erecting barriers to its car park.
Kennet was granted planning permission for an additional 33 car parking spaces in 2011, but the scheme was not pursued.
The council said it had received four responses about the charges, including one from Thatcham Town Council, which had raised concerns.
A senior teaching assistant also objected, saying that if they had to pay to park it would make it unaffordable for them to continue in their job.
The district council said it was for the school to determine its parking allocation.
It added that there was no evidence to suggest that commuters were causing the parking problem, with representatives indicating that the issue is associated with Kennet School and possibly Francis Baily Primary School.
Another response calling on Kennet to supply a bus service for its staff, similar to the Vodafone service in Newbury, was dismissed.
Leisure centre staff will be provided with a permit and the five disabled places will be made enforceable and people caught without a blue badge will be fined.
Double yellow lines on the access to the centre were provided by Kennet School, but they were not made enforceable.
The changes to the centre’s parking includes an order to make the double yellow lines enforceable.
Kennet Academy will be supplied with sufficient, clearly identifiable permits for this and anyone who is caught parking in the area without the correct permit during the defined hours – whether Academy linked, a centre user or other – will be liable to a fixed penalty fine.