Calls for rethink over Towcester Market Square’s car park

Parking in Watling Street, Towcester.'130911M-B220
Parking in Watling Street, Towcester.'130911M-B220

Calls for a rethink over plans to halve the number of parking spaces in Towcester’s Market Square are falling on deaf ears according to traders and town councillors.

In February, South Northants Council announced its success in a £100,000 funding bid to the Highways Agency and the Department of Environment, Food and Rural Affairs for money to improve air quality in Towcester’s town centre.

The successful bid came after the A5 Watling Street was declared an Air Quality Management Area in 2005 when the level of pollution was found to be above the level permitted by the European Union.

The money will pay for a reorganisation of the Market Square car park which the authorities behind the scheme believe will reduce disruption to the traffic flow and cut pollution from cars idling while parking. A new layout for the Market Square parking will include one way access and parking parallel to the road, with disabled parking against the pavement.

The changes will see the number of parking spaces fall from 28 to 14.

Mayor Jim Lynch said the town council had twice written to the Highways Agency calling for a rethink, with several traders also writing with their strong objections.

He said uncertainty in the modelling used to predict what effect the changes would have on air pollution meant while pollution would be reduced in Market Square, it could still exceed permitted levels in nearby areas.

Mr Lynch added: “If you can’t park easily in Towcester the attraction of shopping here goes away.

“The other thing is, while they are in the process of regenerating Moat Lane, all the construction traffic has to somehow get in and out of that area as well as the normal traffic passing through. There’s going to be a log jam.

“And when Moat Lane is complete there will be a net difference in car parking spaces in Towcester of around 50 to 80, and this will take away another 14 spaces to attempt to meet an EU directive which we are not going to meet.

“In other words all they are trying to do is to tell the EU, ‘We are doing something.’

“The fact is it’s going to be a huge inconvenience to Towcester, take trade away, and not actually meet requirements.”

Margaret Cairns of Drop Dead Gorgeous said cars currently have four ways in and out of the parking area, and the change will only increase congestion and put people off shopping in the town.

A spokesman for the Highways Agency said: “We have sought views locally on this. We had a public meeting in the spring.

“It was publicised in local papers asking for views on it and those views are still under consideration.”