Two Mile Ash Environmental Group – Position Statement
Traffic and Parking in Two Mile Ash
Following the recent destruction of maturing trees and other greenery in and around the village centre, the Two Mile Ash Environmental Group (TMAEG) call upon Milton Keynes Council to adopt a more balanced and imaginative approach to the accommodation and management of parking through an appropriate review.
The background There is a great deal of material on this issue, including papers that TMAEG itself has produced. But, in a nutshell, there was a conflict between the preparedness of the previous Milton Keynes Council (MKC) to provide for what was is said to be the demand for parking in TMA High Street – relating primarily to the two schools and local businesses – and the capacity of our environment to accommodate such parking. The assumption that there had to be additional parking provision indeed formed the basis of a Council consultation carried out in early 2010, an exercise which we believe to have been badly flawed. Up until now the carrying through of such policies has generally meant the sacrifice of fine maturing trees, and green spaces, which were part of the original structure of TMA when it was first laid out 30 years ago.
In the period since that consultation exercise, the centre of TMA has seen the felling of twenty such trees to meet supposed parking needs. For example, outside Radcote Lodge, our sheltered accommodation for the elderly, there is now a barren, hard surface in place of the seven attractive horse chestnut trees which once stood there. While part of this area is now a designated ambulance space, for which there is clear justification, much of its considerable length is given over to ordinary car parking. What has happened outside Radcote Lodge, and indeed outside the Middle School (to the east) where other trees have been felled to create a dropping off car lane for children – whatever might be said to be the benefits – has had a significant adverse effect upon our local environment.
Threat to the central landscape strip The impacts of those projects alerted many in the TMA community to the consequences of going further, of installing still more car parking spaces, within the central landscape strip to the west of our local store. That is the part of the High Street bordered by one way sections (link to High Street plan). Over the last two years, MKC has produced various plans for car parking within this central area, the most recent of which sought to replace the parallel parking on the southern side of that central strip with echelon car parking.
Protests from the community Through a campaign of letters to the press and the messages that we sent to elected members, TMAEG fought that proposal very strongly. Not only would it have resulted in a gain of just nine parking spaces, it would have destroyed much of the central green area, including a row of superb maple trees that are part of the essential character of TMA. Moreover, the proposed works would also have resulted in significant public expenditure at a time of unprecedented cuts.
Given MKC’s responsibilities for amenity in this ‘City of Trees’, it is almost unbelievable that an environment of this quality could have been placed under such a threat. Had TMAEG not taken the action that it took – which included the commissioning of an alternative parking plan for TMA High Street – those lovely trees would have been felled in August 2011.
A change of heart However, at the last minute, and to the great relief of TMAEG, MKC decided not to proceed with echelon parking and agreed to investigate alternative locations instead. TMAEG decided that it should (reluctantly) support such proposals on the basis that the integrity of the central landscaping strip and its fine trees are now protected. The new spaces are to be formed through extensions to the existing parallel parking. TMAEG has made detailed comments to MKC on their siting and detailed design.
Time for new thinking TMAEG considers that the proposed small extensions to parking should now be the limit for our village centre. And now that the threat to the central landscape strip has been removed, the way is open to enhance it, returning this land to the wonderful amenity that it once was. We have already presented some preliminary ideas on this to MKC and Abbey Hill Parish Council (AHPC).
While traffic conflicts remain in our village centre, TMAEG questions the automatic assumption that the authorities must always strive to match alleged increases in demand for school and business related parking with additional car parking spaces. We do not, of course, disregard the traffic and parking pressures in TMA, although our own studies indicate that these are largely confined to short periods at the beginning and end of the school day.
But enough destruction has been caused and it is time for a new approach. We should move away from the old policies and seek to manage demand for car parking instead. The waiting restrictions recently installed in front of and alongside One Stop provide one approach to demand management, and we welcome this particular initiative, but other measures such as the encouragement of walking, cycling and car sharing also need to be investigated.
Time for a Review We therefore call upon Milton Keynes Council:
to move away from the approach of providing further parking spaces in central Two Mile Ash, pending a fresh investigation of the traffic and parking situation. As part of that review, MKC should:
assess fully the extent, timing and source (whether school staff or parent, business or resident related) of present parking use;
assess the full range of options available to manage, and reduce apparent demand, these to include further parking controls and the encouragement of other travel modes such as walking, cycling and car sharing;
following consultation, and with the support of TMA residents, take appropriate corrective action.