I thought I’d have a discussion on car parking, but as I write it is impossible to look at this in isolation and I’m afraid I have ended up spelling out a vision for King’s Lynn!! I say this as this gives you a chance to turn to the next page.
This is in one sense mainly a Kings Lynn matter, as the bulk of the paid car parking spaces are there. Our Council operates MOST of these, and in addition there are pay and display sites in Heacham, Hunstanton and one in Burnham Market. The council seems quite good at organising car parking as it also manages other sites throughout Norfolk, including at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital. However, we all use many of these car parks so it is a Borough wide issue too. (The Council also supplies related CCTV services to some sites, both in the Borough and in Norfolk.).
For the Council this is the major income earner. The profits from this are used to support Council services, and as there have been relentless cuts on grants to all councils, increasing revenue and cutting costs have been necessary to balance the books. There are broadly speaking two bases of charge – annual season ticket or daily park. The season ticket is £400, so that’s around £1.70 per working day and the dailies are £2.80 (before 10 am) and £3.60 after 10 am. The (relatively) cheap parking is seen to support footfall for the high street in King’s Lynn, and the perceived poor property values and challenges of building mean that the numerous scattered small parking places around the city do not represent lost building opportunities.
But the world is changing, and many are questioning whether this historical model is really fit for purpose. King’s Lynn was changing before the Crisis, as indeed are many English towns. Simply, our shopping habits are changing. We use online more, and home deliveries are growing. For us in the rural areas, I would love to see this allow for the return of village shops. A tall order maybe, but I do note from the Plunkett Foundation that over 90% of community owned local shops have survived … their business model is perhaps more in tune with the times than traditional retailers. For Towns such as King’s Lynn it is important to recognise where the future lies and guide the town to that place. We should never forget that throughout its life King’s Lynn has always changed. From being medieval England’s largest port, through being a leading Hanseatic trading town, an industrial and food processing centre to a leading retail centre. This all matters to us in the rural areas as King’s Lynn is important for jobs, services, local government and business, as well culture and leisure. In normal timers King’s Lynn has been doing a reasonable job of rebuilding itself, with many events and leisure attractions.
So, let me spell out a vision, and as ever I love feedback! Firstly, I believe that our Council has a duty to promote healthy lifestyles, so more active travel and less car use. I would like to see much greater availability of public transport, with more regular bus services running later in the day so you can go out to King’s Lynn by bus and get a bus back. As we shift to electric cars (so I’m told) air quality will improve, but the main driver for this will be reduced car use in the town. But our love affair with the car is not over quite yet. There is a lot of funding available for developing bus routes, lets apply for a chunk of this.
So, secondly, let’s look again at Park and Ride. As I said above the low level of parking fees make this economically challenging, and many in the council do not want to change their old car parking model. It made money, and they believe will continue to do so. But take the cars out of town and provide excellent transport from out of town car parks will make for a more attractive town. As I said before, we need to consider our commercial services as a Council not just for their ability to create revenue, but also for their ability to promote healthier lifestyles. I believe a large Park and ride to the north will greatly improve access to the hospital. But the big idea is to look to create a new railway station SOUTH of Kings Lynn, where huge tracts of new housing are planned. Many of these new jobs will be servicing the tech companies of Cambridge, so I expect that home working will need to be supplemented by good communications to Cambridge (and London). A railway station here would serve areas to the East, West and South of Kings Lynn. This unparalleled growth of King’s Lynn will, as one of my colleagues said, allow the town to develop into a City, and that will benefit us all.
I believe that the Council by freeing up the inner-city carparks will be able to release land for imaginative use in the town, and such sites as Boal’s Quay will become available for high quality riverside developments. I would love to see the Market Place freed from being just a large parking lot to a focal point for an exciting nightlife, and other smaller sites be freed for development.
So what has this got do with us in the sticks? We need jobs, access to good health services, education and leisure and if our Borough town becomes forward looking then we will be the winners. Next month I’d like to write about the road network here in this corner of SW Norfolk, and if you have any views I would love to hear them
Thank you for reading my thoughts!