People already use Wolsey Road, Palace Road and surrounding streets as a free alternative to the expensive station car park, with roads filling with cars from 7am until 8pm and causing all sorts of difficulty and danger for residents trying to exit their drives.
Steve Bax is concerned that if the developer Gladedale and its partner Network Rail are able to start building a hotel, care home, flats and retail scheme on land around the station (including the Jolly Boatman site) this will result in the station car park being closed for many months, and it is less than clear whether railway users will have any alternative parking. If none are provided they will have no option but to spill out on to East Molesey streets making a bad situation a great deal worse.
Steve has been pressing Network Rail to say how it will accommodate its customers and eventually received a statement from the Network Rail and South West Trains Alliance, which was less than illuminating.
It said: “Whenever improvement work takes place on the railway, everything is done to minimise the disruption this causes passengers and local communities. As part of our plans to develop Hampton Court station, we will continue to work closely with the developer and local authorities so this approach continues and will provide information to passengers and the local community as soon as we are able to.”
Steve said: “Gladedale and Network received planning permission for their scheme 2008, regrettably in my opinion. But having had had four years to prepare, the railway is still unable to say whether or how it will provide parking during the construction - I find this astonishing. People will understandably wonder if there is a plan or if Molesey’s residential streets are being expected to take the place of the station car park.”
Before the development can go ahead, Gladedale has to satisfy Elmbridge Council that it has met 56 planning conditions, and if it is unable to commence building by June 16th then its planning permission expires. It will need to win an appeal against the council's rejection of its travel plan, which will be held on May 8th.
However the crucial thing is for Molesey to get its defences in place to safeguard against this commuter car onslaught. Steve advocates a 1-2 hour parking restriction in vulnerable streets, so that for a short time in the middle of the day (and only on weekdays) parking will be banned without a permit. Residents with drives would be able to use them and would not be affected, but all day commuters would be deterred. This would declutter roads and give a boost to local shops in Bridge Road, because potential customers would be able to park (likely for short periods of time) in Wolsey and Palace Road - something that is impossible at present due to the commuters, who are contributing nothing to the area.
The Molesey Residents Association opposes the solution put forward by Steve and the residents, and would be happy to stand by and allow the misery in these streets to continue. It holds 11 council seats yet will not take action when residents call for help. The argument put forward in the MRA's summer newsletter last year was that protection for Wolsey and Palace would only move the problem to other roads. There may be some truth in this, but common sense tells you that there are limits to amount of distance from the car park and extra journey time that commuters are prepared to accept, before they give up and go elsewhere.
Should the scheme go ahead and the car park close, streets that are not currently affected by the commuter issue could well be engulfed. It is better that East Molesey has a councillor who is prepared to take action and not stand by and allow problems to continue unchallenged. Our next Surrey County councillor will have a seat on the decision-making Local Committee which has the power to implement parking restrictions of the kind mentioned above, and Steve would call on the support of Conservative colleagues on the committee to address this situation.
One other solution would be for railway users to park in some of the empty bays at the Molesey town centre car park, thereby addressing the under use there. Perhaps Network Rail would be good enough to provide a shuttle bus for rush hours.