An ordinary Tuesday in October, late morning, and nothing special going on in town, but I still find myself edging my car into one of the few remaining spaces on the ‘roof’ of the Parkway multideck car park in Bury St Edmunds.
On the face of it, great news. Bury St Edmunds is thriving, pulling in shoppers and visitors on what could be a slow day and St Edmundsbury Borough Council’s bean counters no doubt gleefully rubbing their hands together as motorists continue to top up the coffers.
But like the thick cloud that followed me across the busy arc car park to work, the fact that the multideck was nearly full is not a good omen. And just as the heavens opened soon after, I predict trouble ahead for motorists as Christmas approaches.
There was a lot of number crunching when the arc shopping centre was built, with some people warning that the loss of part of the old cattle market car park and a too small underground facility would leave the town short of spaces.
Equally, the sponsors of the scheme assured us that there was plenty of spare parking capacity in the town. That may have been true three or four years ago, but now I’m not so sure.
I know that at peak times over the festive period, the park and ride will be in operation and that will relieve some of the pressure, but I’m pretty sure that the queues for car parks come December will be unpleasantly long.
And looking further ahead, with the promise of nearly 6,000 new homes for Bury under the borough’s Vision 2031 plan, there needs to be a lot of thought given to the cars that will come with those homes – the currrent set-up will not cope.
The borough and county councils are already under fire for not having a proper transport and infrastructure strategy in Vision 2031 and I can understand why, a piecemeal approach won’t work.
If the borough wants shoppers and visitors to continue coming to Bury (at a time when towns across the region are looking for the same business), they need to make them feel appreciated and that doesn’t mean making them search high and low for somewhere to park.