As shops are increasingly replaced by homes in Thanet town centres there are growing pressures on parking spaces for residents and visitors.
National policy and Thanet’s Local Plan do not require parking facilities to be included with planning applications for town centre properties, the theory being shops and services are available on the doorstep. But this does not take into account those who may need easy access to their vehicles due to disabilities or jobs in caring and key worker professions and seems to miss that the residential growth reduces ‘traditional’ town centre facilities.
This is particularly true of Ramsgate in areas such as King Street. At one time the entire stretch was filled with shops and businesses but as units became vacant, residential use expanded.
Changes to the town include the 2014 purchase of the former Carpet Heaven site at 69-73 King Street and conversion to 13 flats. The site had been vacant since 2009.
More recently, as part of its social housing build programme, Thanet council created 26 new build units: a mixture of houses and apartments, on parcels of land which had been blocks of garages in King Street.
Housing is also being created at the former Swiss Cottage pub site which has been empty for more than a decade and had become a dumping ground, attracting rats. That site is to be twelve, 2 bed flats and two, 1 bed flats, which will put further pressure on parking in surrounding areas.
The issue was raised in January by Ramsgate councillor Helen Crittenden who put forward a motion asking that Thanet council undertake a district wide assessment of increased pressures on both on and off street parking in town centres arising from the expansion of town centre residential development.
The review is now due to be discussed by council Cabinet members on Thursday (April 28).
Cllr Crittenden said: “It (the request) was really prompted by the way areas of (Ramsgate) town centre, particularly King Street, have become more residential and the impact that’s had on residents in King Street and surrounding areas. As people move into the areas more and more residents are saying they can’t park near their homes anymore and this goes out as far at St Luke’s.
“National legislation and the Local Plan mean we do not need to provide (residents) parking in the town centre because there is access to shopping and transport but a number of people living in the town need independent transport if they have jobs as carers or in the caring and key worker professions or have disabilities. Although this is also part of the green agenda I think we still need to recognise that some people living in the town need their transport.
“We have new buildings including social housing, which I very much welcome, and a number of those properties are designed to accommodate people with disabilities. We need to recognise the needs of these people.”
Cllr Crittenden says resident parking schemes are unlikely to be suitable for the town area and she hopes the review will come up with solutions to help ease the pressures.
Documents for the meeting state: “Thanet District Council recognises these challenges and commits to undertake a district wide impact assessment of increased pressures on both on and off street parking in our town centres arising from the expansion of town centre residential development, taking into account relevant factors such as access to electric vehicle charging, public transport links, cycle storage and pedestrian safety (especially at night), in consultation with KCC, ward councillors, other stakeholders (e.g. public transport providers) and the public, in order to develop solutions that support the community, recognising the need for some groups to have access to safe personal transport due to work conditions or disadvantage.”
It adds: “A review will include engagement activities with key stakeholders including the local community, service users, Joint Transportation Board and councillors. This will ensure that those who are interested in the parking strategy development and the impact it will have on their town have the opportunity to find out and where possible influence the process.
“A strategy should not only address the motion but also support economic growth and recovery, identify parking pressure and prioritise opportunities, flex between the differing seasonal, day and night economies as well as align with climate change commitment, Thanet Local Plan and Government legislation and policy changes.”
Cabinet members are expected to approve the parking review.