• Joe

Pushing Oldfield's parking problems onto other communities?

Updated: Oct 18, 2021

News has emerged of a plan to unroll a huge Resident Parking Zone (RPZ) across Oldfield Park and Westmoreland, which could have an impact on surrounding communities like West Twerton, Southdown and Moorfields.


Stretching from Bear Flat all the way to Burnham Road opposite the Lidl store on the Lower Bristol Road, the new Resident Parking Zone would be roughly 1.5 kilometres in length. It would encompass many streets in Oldfield Park and Westmoreland where commuters park their cars and fill up a lot of parking spaces.


Oldfield Park councillor Shaun Stephenson-McGall announced the proposal on the Facebook group Oldfield Park RPZ Group. Speaking in positive tones, he wrote:


For as long as I have been a Cllr there have been growing louder calls for extension to the RPZ to cover the remaining parts of Oldfield Park. Most people want to remove the commuter parking out of their road or street...

His post revealed that a consultation this month (October) would give Oldfield Park residents the chance to have their say, with a public drop-in session to be held at Oldfield Park Baptist Church on 2nd November from 4pm to 8pm.


However, Councillor Stephenson-McGall made no mention of the possibility that the plan could push the problem elsewhere by forcing commuters to make use of free parking in surrounding neighbourhoods.


On social media, supporters of the planned Oldfield and Westmoreland RPZ have emphasised the severity of the parking congestion at Oldfield Park. This they blame partly on an existing RPZ at Bear Flat which, they say, has displaced commuter parking down the hill into Oldfield. A further claim is that the large student population at Oldfield and Westmoreland accounts for a lot of the parking congestion.


Pushing the problem elsewhere?


One striking issue is that the poorest ward in BANES could be next in line to receive this undesirable commuter parking. The edge of the proposed Oldfield and Westmoreland RPZ would fall just short of West Twerton, creating a risk that commuters would be pushed into using the available parking in West Twerton roads and streets.


Pictured: West Twerton sits next to where the proposed RPZ would end. Would these streets then come under pressure from displaced commuter parking?

Photo by Whiteway resident John Rawlings

Residential areas of West Twerton do already experience some commuter parking from workers employed in offices and retail along the Lower Bristol Road, as well as staff at the Royal United Hospital. Twerton also has a growing number of student HMOs of its own. As one Twerton resident pointed out, "The problem isn’t unique to Oldfield Park; it’s been spreading well beyond that for many years."


If parking pressures in Twerton were to grow more intense, then the solution might not be as straightforward as to extend the RPZ further westwards to cover this area too. Many residents could struggle to pay the £100 price tag (or more) to get a resident's parking permit. The same may also be true for Moorfields and Southdown as like Twerton they contain much social housing.


An unsatisfactory position


This latest issue in the council's philosophy of traffic management has the potential to become another sharp bone of contention.


Oldfield Park and Westmoreland residents will be taking part in the October consultation, while surrounding communities have received no literature on the subject at all. Indeed, the information supplied here is apparently 'leaked' from the Oldfield Park RPZ Group - a private Facebook group that cannot be seen by non-members.


Councillors who were elected to represent West Twerton and Southdown have not informed residents of these proposals, much less given them an idea of what they intend to do if the scheme impacts their neighbourhoods. Instead of treating the problem as a city-wide issue, the council is looking at gradually expanding the RPZ from Bear Flat, seemingly without giving much thought as to how and where it will end.


An opinion poll on the Twerton, Whiteway and Southdown Facebook group asks whether the Twerton and Southdown councillors should stand up for their electorates by challenging the plans for this RPZ. To date, some 102 people have voted "Yes" and only 13 have said "No". But so far, the silence from these councillors and their Liberal Democrat party has been notable, with no response, no answer, and apparently no real plan.

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