WinACC Transport Group has produced the third edition of their survey of car parking in Winchester city. Surveys in 2011 confirmed the findings from the previous surveys in May and June 2010. The car parks are far from full, whatever the day. On all days, all the cars parked inside the old city walls could have been accommodated on the edge of town in Park and Ride and other existing car parks.

Two in five of Winchester’s car parking places are usually empty. This is the finding from surveys for all Winchester’s off-street public car parks which have been one regularly since May 2010, published in the latest report from Winchester Action on Climate Change (WinACC). 

On a typical mid-morning and mid-afternoon weekday, 55% to 60% of places are filled. Even at the pre-Christmas peak, only 68% of the places were full. Saturdays and holiday weeks see slightly fewer cars parked.

WinACC therefore welcomes Winchester City Council’s proposal to relocate the St. Clement surgery to the Upper Brook St. car park, described on the front page of the Hampshire Chronicle on 16 June. As the article says, the opening of Park and Ride has reduced the need for car parking spaces in the city centre. There were 900 empty spaces in Winchester’s car parks even before the new Park and Ride South site opened with another 860 spaces. The plan was always to cut down the number of public parking places in the centre of Winchester as drivers switched to the Park and Ride.

Winchester would benefit if drivers, particularly those on their way to work, used the empty Park and Ride spaces. There would be less congestion, and cleaner air, if fewer commuters went round the one-way system looking for a car parking place in town, when there are plenty of spaces on the edge of town.

With better use of park and ride, public car parking space within Winchester’s city walls could be reduced by about 860 spaces. Undertaken carefully, and making sure there is still sufficient parking for shoppers, people with heavy luggage and disabled people, this change would improve Winchester city centre as a shopping venue and commercial centre. The space could be converted to higher-value housing and commercial use, reinforcing the economic vitality of the city centre.

WinACC suggests that there should be an urgent debate about how to make best use of the park and ride facilities, and how to get the most benefit from car parking land within the city walls. City centre traders and Winchester residents should take part so that the City Council can make well-informed decisions that enhance the city centre economy and the social environment.

The Friarsgate car park would be demolished as part of the Silver Hill development which would itself provide a new multi-storey car park. Chris Gillham, author of the report, said: “There should be an informed conversation between the City Council and the Silver Hill developer about the scale of the expensive multi-storey car parking that is provided on this site. Both the need and the economics may point to lower provision than is currently planned".