Members of the Devizes Parking Working Party met with Wiltshire Council Cabinet Members Bridget Wayman and Philip Whitehead to discuss the feedback from the recent consultations with businesses and residents in the town regarding the proposed changes to parking provision in Devizes.
The group reported that while there were some differences in opinion between businesses and residents, particularly in relation to the changes in the market place, the overwhelming majority of both sets of people felt that significant changes from the current position risked harming the town.
Simon Fisher, speaking for the Town Council, and Iain Wallis, speaking for the Federation of Small Businesses, both explained that what the Town wanted was to find a solution which made visiting Devizes by car an attractive prospect and encouraged people to stay longer. It was also highlighted that a good ‘super short stay’ parking solution was needed to ensure residents of the town and local villages, who may be visiting a bank or chemist, were well served. It had been feared that the loss of free parking in the market place would hit residents of the local area particularly hard.
Philip Whitehead acknowledged the concerns raised and made it clear that Wiltshire Council had no intention of harming Devizes and was willing to work with all stakeholders to find a suitable compromise position. Cllr Whitehead went on to say that, while there would have to be some changes to the provision of parking in the Market Place, Wiltshire Council would support a mixed-use solution and asked what further measures could be implemented to support the towns thriving economy which is primarily made up of independent businesses. Suggestions of longer short stay parking in central car parks and significant changes to Station Road car park, which could include more long stay parking complimented by a ‘first hour free’ option, have been put forward recently. No suggested timescale for further changes has been put forward but all parties appreciated that it was crucial that measures to offset the loss of free parking should be implemented as soon as practical to avoid a negative impact on the local economy.
Mr Wallis, the FSB’s South West Policy Lead and who’s family have run businesses in Devizes for four generations, said “Whilst there is still some way to go to reach a plan that works for the whole community the FSB were pleased that Wiltshire Council made a commitment to address business concerns, and those of the Town Council, over short stay time limits across the town and making Station Road Car park completely long stay. It was also appreciated that Cllr Whitehead understood the concerns of businesses and asked us to identify measures which would help us to better serve the local economy. It is a long process which will require local businesses to get actively involved but this is certainly a good first step”.
“Those of us in businesses appreciate how difficult it can be to balance a budget so we understand the challenge which lays before Wiltshire Council. That being said it is important that we look to the future as well as the present and it is crucial that Wiltshire Council cultivate an environment which allow small businesses, and particularly start-ups, to thrive as they are the employers and rate payers of the future. The FSB feels that the commitments made at this meeting show a willingness to do this and we are happy to work closely with Wiltshire Council on this Journey”.