We would like to raise a strong objection to the newly announced plans for making permanent the suspension of parking bays in Kings Heath.
We are fully behind permanently removing parking spaces from High Streets in shopping areas, it has made the High Street nicer to use, but we have issues with both the practicality of this proposal, as well as the long-term consequences of it.
On the practicality of the scheme, reducing the amount of car parking in Kings Heath is designed to encourage people into a modal shift with how they make shorter journeys around the area.
Parking in Kings Heath has become a Wild West since the end of lockdown. People are parking anywhere they can; pavements, double yellow lines, loading bays, disabled bays.
With that in mind, we can guarantee that the new loading and disabled parking bays proposed in this scheme will be subject to rampant abuse, and will likely spend most of the day filled with cars. You only have to look at the “space” outside D & S Bargains, where the shop staff appear to constantly move the metal barriers out of the way to unload, and the number of times during the day that it is used as a parking space.
So, we’d argue that, despite these bays not being proposed as parking for shoppers, they will be used as such, and are therefore increasing the amount of parking in the area.
Furthermore, there has been no parking or loading allowed on these sections of the High Street for nearly two years now, so we would suggest that, D & S aside, the businesses have all adapted to the situation.
With regard to increasing the provision of disabled spaces in Kings Heath, we suggest that the current normal parking lane on the south side of Silver Street could be repurposed for disabled parking.
Our alternative suggestion
We do agree with the aim of replacing the metal barriers with something that looks better. To that end, we propose installing planters to block the bays off. These would look significantly better.
Impact on cycling infrastructure
Our longer-term objection to this scheme is that we fervently believe that a segregated cycle lane should be built on Kings Heath High Street. The introduction of the LTNs in Kings Heath, their planned expansion later this year, and the forthcoming re-opening of the Camp Hill train line, combine to make this the perfect time to introduce a segregated cycle lane to the High Street.
We cannot use modal filters to discourage car travel, and therefore encourage active travel, without making it easier for people to walk or cycle.
In fact, the Labour Party manifesto for the recent local elections promised:
“…taking every opportunity to make cycling and walking safer and easier in the city”
We struggle to see how these proposals improve the cycling provision in Kings Heath. We contend that these are, therefore, incompatible with this pledge.
If this proposal goes ahead, valuable council resources will be spent paving an area that would then have to be dug up to reconfigure the High Street to accommodate a segregated cycle lane. As planters could still be used on the High Street with a cycle lane, we suggest that this would be a much better use of money, would achieve the aim of making the High Street look nicer in the short term, whilst not hindering the longer term plans to meet the Active Travel goals that this council won a mandate for in the recent local elections.
We therefore strongly recommend that these plans be shelved, and plans for a segregated cycle lane on the northbound side of the Alcester Road be expedited.