This was originally posted on 4 December 2015.
Are the Parish Council’s plans to extend the car park at Lydiard Millicent Parish Hall going ahead, or not?
Andrew Harris, Chair of Lydiard Millicent Parish Council, announced the results of the village-wide consultation at yesterday’s Parish Council meeting.
The majority of respondents were opposed to the project. However, residents will have to wait a little longer to find out if the Council is going to proceed, and the effect on their council tax.
In November, the Parish Council wrote to 600 households, asking residents if they wanted to fund the short fall in the car park project through an increase to their precept (the part of the Council Tax that is set by the Parish Council). The letter explained that the projected shortfall would equate to an extra annual increase of £4.20 for a Band A house, up to £12.60 for a band H house.
However, these estimates may need revising. The Council acknowledged yesterday that it may not be able to recover VAT on its construction costs, as originally thought. This would add another £16,000 to the shortfall. The Chairman admitted this made “the picture even bleaker.”
160 residents replied to the letter. 65 were in favour of the car park proceeding, 71 were against. And 24 were undecided. The Chairman was pleased with the response, and the number of positive and constructive suggestions the Council had received.
21 members of the public attended the meeting. However, those speaking were critical of the Council’s plans.
One resident demanded, what was there left to debate if a majority of residents were against the proposals? The Chairman welcomed consultation and debate. However, he explained that the letter to residents had asked for comments, not votes.
Councillor Cobb made the point that the Council could have proceeded with the car park, and precept increase without the consultation. The first residents would then know was when the bulldozers moved in!
Concerns and comments from the public included:
- Residents are having effectively to fund parents who bring their children to school from outside the parish.
- The major beneficiary, the school, is not contributing sufficiently.
- Other measures (traffic restrictions, minibuses, walking trains, footpaths, parking permits) should be properly explored. One resident asked, “Why don’t you fix the road rather than the car park?”
- The likely detrimental effect on other services and projects.
- Without other measures, parents would not park sensibly even if there was an extended car park.
- There were better uses for the land (for example, a peaceful community orchard where villagers could sit and observe the walking train of school children).
- Could the Council try out a temporary car park to see how things go before committing itself?
- There is a likelihood of further costs overruns. One member of the public expressed concern that the Council’s figures in its consultation letter were misleading. For example, it did not take account of any maintenance costs. There was a fear that the Council would be throwing “good money after bad.”
The Chairman summed up parishioners’ concerns as centering around the cost, the school’s contribution and the viability of other measures. Given this, he thought that “rushing headlong to start the car park in January may not be the right thing.”
The public part of the meeting closed, and councillors considered the issues raised.
Annamaria Beswick Edwards, Chair of the Finance Working Group, voiced concern over the impact on other services, the Council’s reserves and cash flow. The Council’s finances could not support the project, “not this year, not next,” she said. Other councillors conceded that the project was beginning to look less and less affordable.
All councillors recognised there was a major issue with parents’ parking and road safety. Views differed on how this could be solved, and the viability of alternatives to the car park.
Yellow lines were one possibility. Councillor Cobb said this would be down to Wiltshire County Council. The Parish Council and residents could only lobby hard, which he had already been doing. The Chair suggested the emergency services and coach companies could be asked to support a case for traffic measures, as the situation was a safety issue. Councillor Groom suggested taking photographs of dangerous parking.
The Chair started a petition for road markings at the meeting, and suggested residents could be asked to sign at the coffee and mince pie morning at the Village Hall. Councillor Cobb suggested residents raise an issue at county. (This can be done through Wiltshire Council’s online issue form).
In conclusion, the Council agreed that it still supported the car park extension in principle. However, it was mindful of the cost, and possible effect on the precept. Proceeding at the moment would be premature.
The Chair acknowledged that there was further work and investigation to do. The council would form a small working party to look at other sources of funding, and to consider further.