Criticism of proposal to close two Heswall car parks

Thousands have signed petitions as they slammed a “nonsense” proposal to close two car parks in a Wirral town.

The proposal was put forward in a Royal HaskoningDHV report commissioned by Wirral Council to help develop its parking strategy for the borough.

The local authority has now finished the second stage of getting public feedback on its plans which could see £15.4m a year generated. These could include introducing new restrictions, measures to tackle bad parking, and fluctuating prices for car parks at peak times.

The proposals could also see a number of underused car parks close to increase usage at others. In Heswall, car parks at Mount Avenue and Rocky Lane could be closed with people directed towards Pye Road. Closed car parks could then be used for future development.

The report argued that “many car parks are significantly under-utilised and could be rationalised for alternative uses, even allowing for future growths.” The council generated £39,678 from Mount Avenue and £13,309 from Rocky Lane in 2019 according to the report.

People are worried that if the car park closed, it would disenfranchise the town’s elderly population, force people to cross the busy Telegraph Road, and stop people coming into the town. 

The Heswall Society, a community group, said they had only been made aware of the proposal to close the car park recently and have since set up petitions that are together expected to have at least 5,000 signatures. Chair Dr Steve Anderson said, “We weren’t aware of it and now we have become aware, all hell has broken loose.”

Concerns were first raised about the proposal at an environment committee meeting in June. Cllr Allan Brame who lives in Heswall said it was “somewhat bizarre” a proposal was put forward to close a car park next to Heswall Hall.

Heswall Hall is a community centre that hosts a wide variety of events from arts societies, keep fit classes, bridge clubs, live music, comedy, and cinema shows.

Sarah Douglas who manages the hall said the impact of closing would be “very, very huge,” adding, “For our regular users, we have about 30 regular users from the Heswall Society to bridge clubs. We have a huge amount of business coming from them but our night time events, I can’t see how they could be supported without a car park.”

She added, “At nighttime, you would have to come across the road and across the bus station. It’s not feasible, I can’t stress it strongly enough.”

Elizabeth Brame

Former Liberal Democrat candidate Elizabeth Brame also raised concerns about the proposal and put a leaflet out in July asking for people’s opinions. She said, ”I think it would take a very hard-hearted individual to prevent Heswall residents from being able to use their car park.”

However, the town’s three Conservative councillors accused Mrs Brame of “spreading rumours and scaremongering” at the time. She said, “I have never said that the car park was closing and I am appalled anybody thinks I have said that.”

Heswall councillor Graham Davies also claimed it was not brought up in June even though the proposed closures were raised at the meeting. He also argued they “weren’t given any time to discuss it” but the strategy took up 17 minutes of debate.

Ms Douglas from Heswall Hall said, “We are very disappointed that we were categorically told it wasn’t happening so we sat back and thought we didn’t need to do anything.”

However since the issue gained more awareness locally, Conservative councillor Andrew Hodson said they had set up a table, done multiple surveys, and put the petition in every shop in Heswall. He added, “Let’s be fair, we have done something about it. Since we knew what was happening, we have done something about it.

“Ask the Liberals, apart from putting a leaflet out, what have they done?”

Criticisms were made about the report including the use of data from 2019. Dr Steve Anderson from the Heswall Society said, “This is just nonsense. The first thing is the consultation study, basically most of that was done in 2019.

“This is now 2023 and a lot has happened in Heswall since then. We’ve had the Wetherspoons open and we are going to have another pub opening up at the old police station so it is going to be highly busy.”

Jennifer Evans who lives next to the car park said, “The car park is full and my block of flats come with six car parking spaces so my visitors have to come and pay here. It’s always busy.”

Alison Schultz who lives in Heswall added, “The survey didn’t make any allowance for Blue Badge holders because we do not pay for parking so we are invisble in the survey.”

She said, “I just think Heswall isn’t that friendly to disabled people generally and to lose this car park would be absolutely devastating.”

Dr Anderson also criticised the way the council has done its consultation. He said, “We only way you can respond to this consultation is by going on the website. They wouldn’t allow emails or paper comments which does disenfranchise a lot of people even if they are aware of the consultation.”

He added, “I think they needed to advertise what is going on and what the recommendations were. From my perspective they haven’t done enough to inform the local communities.”

A Council spokesperson said, “A suggestion to rationalise under-used public car parks in a number of locations was one of a wide range of ideas and potential improvements identified within the independent report that accompanied the recent consultation on a new parking strategy for the whole borough.

“The findings of this consultation will be reported to a meeting of the Environment, Climate Emergency and Transport Committee in December 2023.”

Image: Ed Barnes

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