Meeting documents

SWT Community Scrutiny Committee
Wednesday, 31st August, 2022 6.15 pm

This matter is the responsibility of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Planning & Transportation.


Prior to the formation of Somerset West and Taunton Council the two former Councils of West Somerset and Taunton Deane had separate car parking strategies.  The Refreshed Parking Strategy for Taunton was presented and adopted by Full Council on 22nd February 2018.  The Final Report of the Parking in West Somerset Task and Finish Group was approved by the Cabinet on 6th March 2019. Both contained recommendations for the future of off-street parking in the separate authority areas. This report highlights what action has been taken in respect of those recommendations since the formation of Somerset West and Taunton Council.




In the absence of Executive Councillor Mike Rigby, Portfolio Holder for Economic Development, Planning & Transportation, Cllr Federica Smith-Roberts introduced the report via zoom. The report highlighted the work that has been done to amalgamate the two districts of Taunton Deane and West Somerset and would be ongoing as it progressed into the new unitary and the wider Somerset area became part of the strategy.


Stuart Noyce and Richard Brown presented the report to the Committee.


During the debate the following points were made: -

·       Cllr Mansell noted that the former West Somerset DC had carried out a stock condition survey of their car parks. Is this happening in the Taunton Deane area? Can this be shared with Members once finalised?  As part of the unitary transfer of assets, all car parks are being surveyed (including the Multi-Storey) and will form part of a portfolio of costings for the next 25yrs. It also takes into account the anticipated costs to maintain in the future, from the complex infrastructure of the multi-storey to the simple car park white lining maintenance programme. Some of the assets had been improved over the last few years by introducing EV charging points and the upgrading of car parking machinery. This new information will need to be captured. An assessment is also being undertaken to examine the income generated by each car park and balance that with the maintenance programme. Once the assessment is completed it may be possible to bring that back to Committee and share with members.

·       LGR Process - When are the fees and charges likely to be reviewed, as there isn’t consistency across the district? The current fees and charges for the SWT district were set for this year by Full Council. All fees, charges and licences are being reviewed across the whole county in line with unitary processes. It is likely to form part of the budget process for the new council. This work is being undertaken now to ensure alignment once the new Council is operational.

·       Cllr Habgood expressed anger that there did not appear to be a comprehensive strategy for the management of car parks or car parking income, and there was a lack of transparency. He saw this as a failure in the administration. The Leader responded by highlighting the challenges of bringing the two councils together: combatting COVID-19 and the changing behaviour of users of the car parks. There were also other areas of the PFH report going to Full Council on 6 September that clearly highlighted the level of progress that was being made to the car parks and the maintenance programme district wide.

·       Cllr Lisgo recognised that merging the two councils into SWT had caused difficulties, but asked what learning had been achieved through this process which could make the passage smoother as we move towards the unitary council? It will be a good opportunity to look at car parking in its entirety across the councils including on-street car parking and park and ride. Most of the transfer of systems had been harmonious as there was a move towards regularisation of data and inspections. Learning included ensuring that there was one system of management across the whole district and rulings were applied in a consistent manner. The staff that had transferred into the service had good knowledge and skills and eased the process into one way of working.

·       The main problem areas were centred around the fees and charges and decision/policy making covering the whole district. It was difficult to find an approach that was equitable for all at the same time. There had also been issues with the adoption of electronic permits, as some users did not have the wi-fi coverage to enable them to use it. Main area of learning was to consult with users and listen to feedback.

·       There is already a good relationship and a lot of partnership working taking place between all the Council’s in Somerset. It is envisioned that this will be strengthened and progressed as the work is aligned into the new council workstreams.

·       There has been a change in user behaviour of the car parks, partly due to the pandemic, but also as people try to reduce their carbon footprint and rely less on cars. SWT is way ahead of other authorities in implementing EV charging points in their car parks.

·       Income has not yet returned to the pre-pandemic levels, as reflected in the change of user behaviour, but it has recovered substantially in the last 12 months. The town centres are busier but there is still a reluctance for people to return.

·       Cllr Whetlor praised the staff for their hard work especially in relation to Watchet. She stated that the PFH should consult with ward members about local issues so that this knowledge can be shared. One such example is that disabled parking bays in the Watchet car parks are empty due to being chargeable, so disabled badge holders park on street and display their badge to avoid paying. This means the bays are empty and can’t be used, and there is a shortage of general need car parking.

·       Cllr Lisgo summed up by saying that there were lots of frustrations around the car parking reports and she could not see it getting better anytime soon due to the amount of work involved. Merging this into one strategy for the whole of Somerset was going to present a huge challenge right across the county, which is not helped by a lack of member involvement, transparency, and dialogue. She expressed the wish that the PFH involves ward members in the discussions and draws upon the experience of Councillors and Officers when addressing these issues to incorporate previous lessons that have been learnt!

The Committee voted to note the report. (8/12 in favour)

Cllr Habgood and Cllr Stock Williams – against

Cllr Lisgo and Cllr Tully abstained.

7.31pm         Cllr Booth, Stuart Noyce, Vicky Lowman and Richard Brown left the meeting.


Supporting documents: