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27 May 2019, 09:01 | Updated: 27 May 2019, 12:01
The first ever survey of private car parking in Reading has begun.
Over the next 8 weeks, Reading Borough Council will be writing to 4,000 businesses addresses for permission to carry out a count of vehicles parked in private car parks on a typical workday. Information gathered will help the Council understand current levels of demand for private parking in the town.
The parking census sits alongside Reading's biggest ever consultation on public transport and air quality issues, which will be launched later this summer. All data and feedback received will then be used to help inform Reading Borough Council's new Local Transport Plan - a plan to manage Reading's transport network and improve air quality over the next 20 years.
Reading businesses are being asked to look out for the parking survey letters and to provide a contact name and/or telephone number for the survey team to arrange to visit their premises.
Reading has one of the UK's fastest growing economies. Located at the heart of the Thames Valley, it is the major centre for employment, leisure and education in the region. It is home to a large number of local, national and international companies and demand for new homes has never been higher. While welcoming this success, Reading continues to face serious challenges in terms of commuter congestion and poor air quality.
That challenge will only increase in the future with many thousands of new homes planned, particularly on the outskirts of the town. Many new residents moving into the area will choose to commute into Reading daily for work.
Councillor Tony Page, Reading Borough Council's Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, said:
"Reading's success means we face serious challenges in terms of commuter congestion and poor air quality. This is having a real effect on the health of our residents. It is frightening to think that one in three vehicles on the IDR do not even stop in Reading, but instead use the town as a short cut.
"This demand places a real strain on the town's transport network and on the quality of life and health of residents in Reading, as well those who work here. The challenge will only increase in the future with many thousands of new homes being built just outside the town. That equates to many thousands of new polluting car journeys every day, onto a road network already operating at full capacity.
"The Council now has to plan ahead in order to protect the health of residents, whilst successfully absorbing the future growth in housing, jobs and commuting.
"This survey will play an important role in helping to establish the current level of demand for private parking spaces in the town. I would urge as many businesses as possible to respond to the letter so that the Council can get as accurate a picture as possible."
While businesses are not obliged to grant access to their premises, the Council is keen to get as accurate a picture as possible. Where it cannot access a site, for the purposes of the count assumptions of parking requirements will be made based on a number of factors, including the size and location of offices relative to similar organisations.
Businesses responding to the parking survey are being reassured that no data regarding the type of vehicles or registration numbers will be collected or shared with third parties. The data is being gathered for research purposes only and to help inform the Council's new Local Transport Plan.
Councillor Page said:
"Later this summer the Council will also be launching its biggest ever consultation on public transport. We will ask residents, businesses and visitors about their ideas for transport solutions, as part of a new approach to develop policies in collaboration with local people.
"Alongside the results of this parking survey, all information and feedback received from the consultation will then feed into a new 20 year Local Transport Plan for Reading, aimed at managing levels of congestion and air quality and helping to mitigate the knock-on effect of many thousands of new homes which will be built.
"In February this year Reading Borough Council added it name to list of councils to have declared a climate emergency. The aim is for Reading to be carbon-neutral by 2030 and the creation of a new Local Transport Plan for Reading will be a key element of that wider work."
Reading Borough Council's new Local Transport Plan will include borough-wide strategies for car parking and air quality. The Council aims to deliver even more improvements to Reading's transport network, including new Park & Ride facilities, new public transport priority routes and more improvements to walking and cycling links. Strategies which may form part of the plan, and which are already in operation in other parts of the country, include possible 'demand management' measures such as a Congestion Charge, Workplace Parking Levy (WPL) and / or Clean Air Zone (CAZ). No decisions on future options have been taken at this time and will not be taken before the public transport consultation later this summer.
Reading Borough Council and its partners have delivered a large number of major sustainable transport schemes in recent years. They include the major redevelopment of Reading Station; the upgrade of Junction 11 of the M4; the new Mereoak Park and Ride; the first phases of South Reading's Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) route; and Christchurch Bridge, the Council's pedestrian and cycle bridge over the Thames.
More recently, along with Network Rail, the Council have widened and lowered Cow Lane, enabling two way traffic, lorries and buses to pass under the new bridges for the first time ever and creating dedicated new cycle and pedestrian facilities. The Council-owned bus company - Reading Buses - goes from strength to strength, providing one of the cleanest, most modern and most extensive bus networks in the UK. The Council is also working to deliver a brand new railway station at Green Park, major improvements to Reading West Station and a new cross-Reading (and Berkshire) cycle route.