There is little doubt that parking in the heart of the town centre is a mess. In the evenings and on Tuesdays, people park carelessly, some legally, many illegally. There is perpetual confusion about where the highway begins and ends and who owns which bit of market and castle squares. Various schemes have been put forward to resolve this, but fines are still being slapped on cars.

On Monday, the town council is to discuss a new plan for restricting waiting in Castle Square and Market Square (paperwork). The restrictions might apply during the daytime only or 24-hours a day.

Plans for the restricted parking zone (click for larger image)

The town council says there is wide agreement that the current parking situation in the town centre on Castle Square[1] and Market Square is unsustainable and unhealthy for the overall economy and long-term future of the town. It complains of careless parking of vehicles, blocking in other vehicles and preventing access to benches. Unsightly and potentially hazardous parking of vehicles effects pedestrians and property. This leads to disruption of cultural events, festivals and local businesses. Street traders are sometimes unable to gain access to their pitches.

Shropshire Council officers advise that having different restrictions in place in different parts of the market area would be confusing for motorists. Quality Square, Harp Lane and Church Street would also become no parking areas. Town councillors are being offered the option of banning parking at all times or just from 7am to 6pm.

The market area could be defined with planters. The town council has yet to produce a layout plan for these, so I don’t know if they will just restrict access on the east (opticians and deli) side of the square or will be placed around the entire market.

I would very much prefer lifting the restrictions in the evening to encourage trade for the pubs and restaurants, or the Assembly Rooms and for the many events held in the town centre. I am concerned that this could lead to people parking across the access to Quality Square. This would be a stupid action that would block one of the emergency access points to the retirement settlement at College Court. But it is amazing how often people are inconsiderate about where and how they park. The town council suggests that “the physical boundary (planters) between the market and the road way leading the Quality Square may also help drivers to notice the entrance to Quality Square, and not park in a way that blocks the entrance outside of the [restricted] times.”

Motorcycles congregate outside the college and on Castle Square at weekends. This is a grand spectacle but can restrict access and create a noise nuisance. The proposal says the town council is considering converting some of the disabled spaces at the top of Mill Street to motorcycle bays. I have mixed feelings about this. The disabled spaces are not heavily used but many people would say that if we are to lose some spaces, they should be used for cars and vans. Moving motorcycles here would not solve the problem of residents being affected by noise. But I would hate to see motorcycles so restricted they no longer come to our town centre. Many people enjoy the sight of the bikes and the bikers bring considerable trade to the cafes our town. This is much needed on slow weekends.

Loading and unloading in the area will be prevented between 10am and 2pm. Market traders may have a view on this. On miserably wet days, some pack up and go before 2pm. It could also create a problem for brewers’ drays for the Rose and Crown and PizzaExpress.

There is one obvious problem with the proposals. A one-way flow will be created from the High Street, passing the opticians and deli, and hooking left past Betfred to PizzaExpress. But the entrance to the one way “street” is shown next to the semi-permanent market stalls, not the opticians. This would cut through the area currently used by market stalls selling china, liquorice and meats.[2] I think this may be an error, as no one intends a road to go through the market.

Black arrows show the proposed entrance to the one-way flow.
Red arrows show the route we were all expecting.

I think these proposals are going in the right direction. We need to resolve the chaotic situation in the market square area. It will improve the aesthetics of our most visited area with a reduction in badly parked cars and a lot more planters. If nothing else, it will lead to a reduction in fines imposed on parked vehicles by Shropshire Council because the drivers don’t know where they can park. We need to promote the economy of the town centre. The routine issuing of penalty charge notices does not help our economy one jot. Enforcement officers say they must uphold the law. I wouldn’t mind them also working to uphold our local economy, which ought to be one of Shropshire Council’s major objectives.

Once the town council has decided on a final proposal, Shropshire Council will conduct a formal consultation on the scheme. As always, you can let your initial views known in the comments section below and on Facebook and Twitter. There is also a 15-minute slot for public representations at Monday’s town council meeting, which begins at 7pm in the Guildhall.


[1]. This area is formally known as Events Square. Some people call it Festival Square. However, we are using the name Castle Square, which is more commonly used and is more descriptive of the location of the space. It is one of those oddities of life that even the market square is not formally called the Market Square.

[2]. These stalls are currently erected on the highway. Because this area is the highway, drivers are routinely fined for parking there in the evening.

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