THE overwhelming response to a public consultation on changes to zoned parking within the town has led to speculation that the council will be forced to rethink the plans.
Signs of a U-turn come as tension mounts between traders and residents over the proposals that will see parking limited to three set hours a day in zones A and B as opposed to flexible two hours at any time currently enforced.
Many trades believes the changes will adversely impact their businesses by putting off people coming into town, while resident’s groups say priority should be given to holders of permits.
Over 600 individuals and organisations took part in the consultation, leading the council to extend the closing deadline from January 6 until the end of the month.
However, the issue has proven so divisive that yesterday (February 7) there were signs that changes to the existing proposal would probably take place.
A spokeswoman told the Times: “A public consultation on proposed changes to restrictions in the towns Zone A and C resident parking areas has produced a substantial response running into several hundred replies.
“These will be assessed before any decisions are taken, but it is likely that a revised proposal will be brought forward later in the year which seeks to address the points raised.”
The statement comes shortly after the business organisation Royal Tunbridge Wells Together increased pressure on the council over the proposed changes to parking which they say seek ‘to limit or de-crease the volume of parking within the town centre’.
The chair of the business organisation Nicky Blanchard, said the group was ‘willing to instruct’ an independent consultant to survey local residents, businesses and town bodies on their opinions.
She will also talk to potential partners, such as The Pantiles landlord Targetfollow, about ‘providing long term parking alternatives.’
She said: “Members generally opposed any suggestion put forward [by the council] which seeks to limit or de-crease the volume of parking within the town centre, without the provision of feasible and operational alternatives providing the same or increased availability of parking.
“Members have stated that even though the proposals might not directly impact on their business location or staff, it will impact on the whole town and its economy and therefore indirectly on all of businesses in RTW.”
“Turning these roads into long stay car parks is most unreasonable”
However, Martin Dawes of Park Road, which borders Zone C at the top of the town, said it was ‘surely reasonable’ that residents have first call on kerbside parking provision.
He added: “There is ample short term parking available to shoppers, but this is often curtailed by those parking for hour after hour, thereby blocking the opportunity for others. Long stay parking should be catered for in our many car parks. Therefore, I suggest our already congested residential roads, within the catchment of our town centre, should have a combination of restricted hours and residents permits.”
Mr Dawes also defended those who have both a driveway and a permit saying they will have visitors ‘from time to time’.
He continued: “Turning these roads into long stay ‘car parks’ is most unreasonable. I have some sympathy with businesses which feel that such restricted parking may have a detrimental effect, but, perhaps, they should be more concerned with the negative impact of potential customers avoiding coming to Tunbridge Wells because it takes them an unacceptable thirty to forty minutes to get in, or out, of town.”