|Parking Action Group Sherwood|
Growing up on a street that had geographical equidistance from Sherwood and Mapperley I was never sure, when asked, which area I should say I lived in. Indeed, my parent’s house still sits on the postcode boundary, so that the front garden of their house is situated in Sherwood, and the back garden is in Mapperley.
As such “a trip to the shops” might mean being dragged around Bailey’s Fruit and Veg shop on Mapperley Top, to the soundtrack of “don’t touch anything”, whilst pleading for a stop off at Diddyland, where they used to sell green plastic soldiers and die cast Cowboys and Indians.
Alternatively, a short car journey to Arnold was also a possibility, and I was always terrified (thanks to playground banter) that I may be forced into a new pair of well fitting, but very “uncool”, shoes from Jonathan James. (Being older and more pennywise, I now recognise JJ’s as a good place to pick up an inexpensive pair of shoes – just don’t tell Russell from class 5Xc or he’ll beat me up!)
Another just as likely option was a trip into Sherwood. Sherwood was an exciting place! Not only did Osborne the stationary shop have loads of invitingly coloured pens and scribble pads, but it also featured a joke shop dead opposite the library – so after you’d immersed yourself in the innumerable pleasures of “The Cat in the Hat”, you could ask Mum to treat you to devil bangers, a whoopee cushion, or, if she didn’t know what they were, stink bombs!
Today, the joke shop has gone, but now – according to some residents and shopkeepers – a new stink drifts in the Sherwood air.
Nottingham City Council Councillors have put forward proposals to introduce pay and display meters in the three main car parks in Sherwood. The car parks, which are - at the moment and for as long as I can remember - free to use, are located on Winchester Street, Hall Street and Spondon Street. Nottingham City Council has claimed that the car parks are being used by commuters to “Park and Ride” into the City Centre and that this is harming local trade.
Sherwood Councillor and Portfolio Holder for Transport and Area Working, Jane Urquhart claims that the Council is “...proposing this to enable the car parks in Sherwood to be available for Sherwood shoppers". The Council hope to achieve this by enforcing scaled parking charges that would promote short-term use of the car parks, whilst discouraging those who intend to park for longer periods. However, whilst Nottingham City Council’s conjecture might seem well intentioned, a local group is opposing the plans and disputing the findings of the Council’s research.
Since the plans were announced, residents and business owners in the area have come together to form Parking Action Group Sherwood (PAGS) to oppose the introduction of pay and display in Sherwood. PAGS is of the belief that the charges will not only damage trade but also lead to knock-on problems, such as congestion, with shoppers hunting for a free parking space on the streets around Sherwood. One campaigner said, “People will try to avoid the charges by parking on the road. I live locally, so I walk to the shops; but I already find it hard to find a parking space near my house. This will only make it worse!”
|Winchester Street car park in Sherwood as seen from above (thanks to Google maps)|
PAGS members have been attempting to highlight the proposals to shoppers using the car parks and asking them for their opinions. Over a number of weeks, more than 300 people responded to PAGS who found that 94% of those polled thought that the street parking problem would get worse if pay-and-display were to be introduced. 74% stated that they would park on the street if car parks in Sherwood were no longer free.
"It's starting to dawn on local residents that they’re going to have residents-only parking brought in" says Janet Heinemann, owner of the delightful vegetarian snack shop Mm... Deli on Mansfield Road. In addition to the fears regarding on street parking, Janet also claimed, "People will go and shop in supermarkets and they won't come and shop in Sherwood anymore."
The Council has proposed free use of the car parks for up to one hour, with charges gradually rising to a maximum of six pounds, depending on the length of stay. But members of PAGS remain skeptical towards the plans. “Of course it will damage trade in Sherwood” argued another opponent of the proposals. “ It might take longer than an hour to have your hair cut, your nails painted , or to sit and have a drink or meal with friends, and all the time you’d be thinking ‘I need to get back to my car before I get a fine.’ It’s very simple – you’d either park on the street, or you’d take your trade elsewhere!”
Meanwhile, one member of the public, interviewed by PAGS, asked “Why would people park in Sherwood and commute to the centre when there is a Park and Ride on the Forest Fields?”
Whilst it is difficult to prove that the free car parks in Sherwood are not being misused by a minority of city commuters, it has proved equally hard for the Council to prove that it is being used in this way. One early piece of Council funded ‘research’ found a significant percentage of car park users were commuting to work. What the Council chose to omit was that some of these ‘commuters’ were actually working in Sherwood itself. PAGS, unlike the Council, has recognised the plight of the many volunteers who give their time freely to work in the charity shops of organisations such as Oxfam, Mind and Cancer Research. Any imposition of parking charges would affect those who give their time for free, not to mention those already on low wages – who across a 5 day week could pay up to £30 for the privilege of going to work.
Nottingham City Council remains without official response to such concerns and this lack of foresight has only served to leave members of PAGS believing that pay and display will be introduced, residents parking permits will follow, and that small, locally run businesses will leave the area or (what is more likely) disappear forever! Systems, such as pay and display parking, require management at bureaucratic and enforcement levels, and if shoppers avoid the car parks the funding will have to come from either local residents or the public purse.
In Mapperley and Arnold, pay and display schemes are already up and running with traders reporting a downturn in business since the introduction. However, with pressing environmental issues, such as the need to decrease traffic and congestion on the roads, could it be time to call time on free local parking? Perhaps we might like to consider how one of the major supermarkets would react were it also faced with such an embargo. Can any of us imagine Sainsbury, ASDA or Tesco rolling over and accepting such dictates from local councilors? Personally, I’m struggling to do so.
Instead, shoppers will vote with their wallets and purses. As trade dwindles and local shops close, those who used to walk into their local shops will find that their needs can no longer be met on their doorsteps. The only remaining option will be to take some form of transport to a supermarket, and who can accurately say how many people will opt for their cars? Therefore, in our auto obsessed society, the pay and display proposals may only serve to exacerbate congestion and road traffic issues. Meanwhile, supermarkets will be rubbing their avaricious paws together, whilst Nottingham City Council employees take trips to abroad to learn how best to promote business and trade in Nottingham, whilst smiling and telling you with a neighbourly wink “We’re on your side”.
The local shopping communities of my childhood have changed a lot in the past 25 years but not so much that Arnold, Mapperley and Sherwood have become unrecognizable. I’m still able to glance around any of the three areas and recall being pulled around with my little brother by our ever patient mother. The smells, the sounds, the sights and the tastes all helping to enrich the life of a growing boy and provide a sense of belonging and community that the omnipresent supermarkets now can only dream of emulating today.
Baileys, the Plains Fish Bar and the Osborne stationary shop, still hang on, but the joke shop in Sherwood has been sadly missing for a number of years. Perhaps with their current attitude towards independent, local traders in Sherwood, Mapperley, Arnold and other similar areas in Nottingham, those responsible for the making of these kinds of decisions will at least bring back some frivolity as they laugh themselves all the way to the bank!
Parking Action Group Sherwood website
Parking Action Group Sherwood on Facebook