A report on parking in Ellesmere Port prepared by consultants for the borough’s proposed new approach reveals there are 2,416 parking spaces in the town centre.
Of these, 2,084 spaces (86%) are in the 16 publicly owned car parks with the remaining 332 spaces (14%) in the single privately owned parking area. In addition, there are 50 on-street parking bays.
Surveys suggest the provision of parking in the town is ‘disjointed’ with the heavily used central parking area ‘feeling more like a retail park’ it is said. In some areas parking does not meet demand.
There are ‘low levels’ of use at Wellington Road which is said to raise the question of whether it could be used more profitably such as a development site or potentially become staff car parking to free up space for shoppers and other town centre users.
On Whitby Road the lack of on-street parking is seen by some to be potentially damaging to the local businesses there.
Inadequate parking provision in the Civic Way area is described as limiting the possibilities to meet the needs of the proposed combined public services centre as multi million pound development plans ‘could change Ellesmere Port town centre considerably’.
Limited rail services at Ellesmere Port station compared with other Merseyrail lines reduces the attractiveness of Ellesmere Port as a park and ride site despite its ‘excellent’ location.
The quality of publicly owned car parks is described as ‘a concern’ in places.
The report acknowledges that charging for public car parks in Ellesmere Port ‘has been met with some public opposition’ although public parking generally is well used.
An ‘underlying perception’ that customers are travelling to Cheshire Oaks remains prevalent but it is suggested: “In reality the two centres provide very different retail offers and therefore attract different markets.”
Signage in Ellesmere Port indicates the appropriate car park according to the destination they serve but does not inform drivers of the number of spaces available.
In addition to site visits two consultations were held by the consultants and one meeting with borough council officers.
These found the lack of a management approach for car parks meant that some car parks in the town are heavily used while others are almost empty as there is no differentiation between long stay and short stay.
In general there is a lack of long stay for commuters.
The existing charges for the central car parks are unpopular despite being ‘somewhat nominal’ and a lack of alternative payment methods beside coins is inconvenient.
Better road signage is needed with improved charge options catering for long and short stay trips, it is thought.
The use of automatic number plate recognition technology for enforcement with new ticket machines providing more convenient payment options would sufficiently raise the quality of the parking in the town it is suggested.
Overall there is a wide variety in both occupancy - from 100% at Whitby Hall and the Civic Centre to less than 20% at Wellington Road and McGarva Way - and average hourly prices which range from free to 70p per hour.
In Neston and Parkgate the consultants pointed out the borough only controls around a third of the publicly available parking in Neston creating difficulty in enforcing an overall approach.
A number of the car parks in the market town suffer from quality issues most notably Station Road, Chester Road and the Old Quay in Parkgate
Several car parks experience demand exceeding capacity including Tesco and School Lane during the week and School Lane and the library on a Saturday.
On-street parking in Beechways Drive was noted during a Saturday when the library car park was full.
Illegal on-street parking on double yellow lines is known to occur on the High Street.
On-street parking on The Parade in Parkgate was said to be ‘relatively high’ during the off-peak season and the consultants suggested that during the summer on-street parking is ‘unlikely to cater for the demand’ and will likely overflow on to surrounding residential streets.
Consultations and meetings with the borough in Neston and Parkgate found that generally there is good satisfaction with the quantity of car parking provision in Neston although there is limited on-street parking and small numbers of people prefer to park illegally on the High Street rather than in a car park.
There is little enforcement as a result of which illegal parking continues.
Quality and ease of access is a concern in car parks with narrow access and bays.
In Parkgate there are greater issues associated with tourism with no coach parking and insufficient general parking.
The lack of restrictions or charges along The Parade means high demand during seasonal periods and leads to overspill onto surrounding residential streets.
It is suggested some ‘small charge’ may be beneficial in the management of parking in the coastal resort but the general feeling is charges would be unpopular in Neston.
Signage is said to be ‘excessive’ in Neston and ‘inadequate’ in Parkgate both of which are confusing for users and visitors.
The borough council has drawn up a 15-year plan of investment and improvement in Cheshire West’s parking for approval.