Many thanks to the 120-plus people who joined us on Saturday February 9th. As promised, we have now sent the full report (below) to every Wells City Councillor, the Chief Exec of Mendip District Council, the Chief Exec of Somerset County Council, plus John Woodman, Cabinet member for highways and transport, Tessa Munt, St Cuthbert Out parish council and Wookey parish council.

PEDESTRIANISATION AND PARKING IN WELLS
REPORT FROM A PUBLIC MEETING CALLED BY WELLS INDEPENDENTS
Seager Hall, 9th February 2019.

  1. WELCOME
    Attendance – 90 seated with 30 standing. Chris Winter prefaced the meeting by setting out the background of the Mendip Local Plan and the particular roles of the three tiers of local government. She stated that the word “pedestrianisation” is unhelpful here as it gives the impression that it is a case of all or nothing, which is not the case. Councillor Philip Welch took the chair, welcomed the throng. He explained that the aim of the meeting was to share views and that these would be notified to Somerset, Mendip and Wells City Councils.
  2. PEDESTRIANISATION
    • Michelle Machin – owner of Whitings. The concept frightens me. 2 to 3 deliveries per day. Very heavy Calor gas canisters collected by customers with nearby cars. No rear access. Pedestrianisation in other towns has led to a 20% reduction in trade.
    • Cllr Roy Mackenzie. Moved here in 1991. 2 well-known people had rubbished the idea of this meeting. There could be a trial for a limited time. Impact of road closure by Town Hall.
    • Robert Bevan – owner of Protec. Shop running for 35 years employing 12 people. The Sadler Street culvert collapse (date?) resulted in Woolworth’s revenue down by 40%. Shepton Mallet died in the 1960s due to pedestrianisation. Similar situation in Stoney Street, Frome. The car is the lifeblood for retailers. Mary Portas commented at a conference for retailers in 2015 that she was opposed to pedestrianisation of High Streets. The car is the reason that the city retail area is bustling.
    • Steve Barkham – local resident. DoT traffic survey of High Street. Statistics over 12 hours. 200 cars per hour. 50 other vehicles per hour. Buses and commercial vehicles could be diverted away from the High Street.
    • Marilyn Webster – local resident. Concerned about the effect of pedestrianisation on some days and not others. Danger of pedestrians stepping into traffic.
    • Keith Rudyard – former retailer. The retailers need to be listened to.
    • Chris Hawkings – resident since 1980. Permanent pedestrianisation not viable. Situation at night would not be good. Areas deserted at night potentially quite frightening with risk of vandals. Pedestrianisation on market days could be trialled
    • Loaye Agabani – retailer for 20 years. Do not see how a trial could be judged. Speed restriction could be good. Better signage. More pedestrian crossings. System of recovery of car park fees in participating shops. Closure at Reindeer Parade and monthly markets might work. However, Shepton Mallet are now seeking to reverse pedestrianisation. Damage ameliorated there by free parking at Tesco.
    • Kay Berry – resident since 1962. Concerned about effect of pedestrianisation and consequent loss of HSBC bus stop. Danger of pedestrianisation leading to loss of tourists. Speed on the High Street no problem. On the other hand, access down Chamberlain Street good and a lot of traffic does not need to come down the High Street.
    • Paul Cannon – Wookey Hole resident. The current arrangement in the High Street works quite well. However, when Weston-super-Mare undertook pedestrianisation, there was no fall off in trade.
    • Alison Cholmondley – Chamberlain Street resident. Air pollution a problem. Traffic on relief road comparatively light. Easy to back out from Mounterey Road.
    • Sue Williams – lived in Wells since 1947. Use Relief Road to get to Leisure Centre from the east side and it is always packed.
    • Geoff Gilson – Chamberlain Street resident. Sherborne thriving despite pedestrianisation on Saturdays. Closure with chain. Let’s experiment. Ask traders to keep tabs. We are all pedestrians. Pedestrianisation is not a dirty word. Let us try it
    • Michele Machin. In Sherborne, closure is from 1030 to 330 and is a problem for shop deliveries.
    • Andrew Fawcett – chair of Wells Museum Trust. Two most common questions from tourists: Where is Vicars’ Close? Why is all the traffic going down the High Street? From the corner of Sadler Street, it could be access only.
    • Kathy Philips – resident since the 1960s. Pedestrianisation must not be ruled out. There has to be a solution. Access for loading only could be organised. All that can be fixed. Has sympathy for the retailers.
    • Chris Winter. Where do people park when going to Bristol or Bath? Park & Ride. Access to the historic core of many towns in Europe restricted vehicle access i.e. Sienna.
    • Marilyn Webster – Yes but a different situation for everyday shopping in Wells.
    • Loaye Agabani – 20% of purchasers have passed down the High Street beforehand to see what Wells is like. Pedestrianisation is a big risk for retailers. To trial with their livelihoods is not on.
    • Christine Costello – South Street. People in Italian towns survive with shopping and housing in their central area. Deliveries can be accommodated before 9 or after 4 or 5.
    • Anonymous – lorry driver living in Wells. Retailers will pay the price for pedestrianisation with no benefit for pedestrians. More tables and chairs outside cafes for pedestrians to negotiate.
    • Roger Hancock – lived in Wookey Hole since 1992. Hate driving down the High Street. Wells badly sign posted. Would love to see pedestrianisation. More parking needed. Councillors not doing anything. Lots of land around Wells which could be cpo’d for Park & Ride.
    • Sarah Nash. The more people move around the happier they are. Walking good for us. Good to walk in safety and without pollution.
  3. VOTING ON PEDESTRIANISATION SUGGESTIONS
    Permanent pedestrianisation – 2 votes in favour
    Improved signage (Access only) to deter through traffic – majority in favour
    No vehicular access, emergency vehicles, etc. excepted, but only on monthly (larger) market days and/or similar events – 14 in favour
  4. PARKING
    • Keith Rudyard – lived in Wells since 1949. Car parking charges are key. The first hour should be free. The fixed charge of £10 for tradesmen should be scrapped. More short stay car parks with P & R needed.
    • Jo Carver – lived in Wells all her life. The North Road/Bath Road area is a death trap and there will soon be an injury or death.
    • Mike Phelps – local farmer. Recently lost dairy herd. Has opened up Palace Fields for 28 days for car parking. About to submit a planning application for car parking there on market days and for similar events. Asked for support for application.
    • Wendy Payne – Stoberry Residents Association. Fighting to improve the parking situation in Stoberry area but to no avail. Would love to have support. Someone will be killed.
    • Mary Colman. Has spoken to Tessa Munt and other councillors over 4 years but nothing has happened.
    • Simon Shimmin – resident of North Wotton. Astonished that the traffic situation is so bad. Time something is done. In some towns, the problem has been solved with P & R. Just get on with it.
    • Tony Williams – resident since 1941. Relief Road has done nothing for eastern Wells. St Thomas St a particular problem with cars mounting the pavements. Cathedral School has no parking in contrast with Millfield which has. Palace Fields is the place for car parking and the impact could be softened with planted hedges.
    • Sue Gillison – North Road. Just waiting for a child to be injured or killed. Double yellow lines on one side of the road are required.
    • Debby Ashton – resident for 16 years. Little concern for the disabled. Needs to accompany her disabled husband and cars blocking pavements are a significant problem.
    • Tanya Lawler – South St. Residents need to have season tickets for nearby car parks.
    • Jacky Wigley – resident for 2 years. The combination of refuse collection on Wednesdays as a market day causes serious problems which could be solved by changing the refuse collection day. Wells Cathedral School own the vacant field beside the skate park and this could be used for parking.
    • Mark O’Callaghan. Loss of Palace Fields to car parking would permanently mar the setting of the Cathedral.
    • John Ogborne – resident since 1972. Cathedral volunteer. Introduction of “pay on exit” would solve the major problem of tourists having to leave before completing their visit of Palace & Cathedral.
    • Chris Winter. “Pay on exit” has been considered but there is a problem in providing space for the requisite barriers to be introduced.
    • Eloise Kench. Director of estates at Wells Cathedral School. Valid points made about the school and parking. However, the school is land-locked. Have tried to find a solution.
    • Councillor Roy Mackenzie. Working on these issues since 1995. Came here to listen and agree with two thirds of comments.
    • Ross Young (WIN). Summarised the situation re “Meet & Greet”. Coach parties have an average spend pp of £14 to £15 which amounts to a considerable figure on the basis of 348 coaches with an average of 36 seats each. Number of coaches coming doubled. Free coach parking must be continued.
    • Councillor Tessa Munt. DoT figures indicate in BA5 1, 2 & 3 a total of 10,500 cars are registered.
    • John Coombes. Own 3 shops in Wells. Has had no contact with any of the local Councils. The yellow lines need repainting.
  5. VOTING ON PARKING SUGGESTIONS
    Free parking for first hour – majority in favour
    More long-term car parking – majority in favour
    More short-term parking – majority in favour but less than above
    Park & Ride – 15 in favour; Park & Walk – majority in favour
    Pay on exit in public car parks – majority in favour
    Residents’ parking – 30 in favour

Adrian I’Anson
Convenor, Wells Independents
9th February 2019.