Car parking review on the way for Doncaster

One of Doncaster's town centre car parks
One of Doncaster's town centre car parks

Changes could be in the pipeline in how you can park in Doncaster town centre as experts look at the best way to make the most of the area.

Changes could be in the pipeline in how you can park in Doncaster town centre as experts look at the best way to make the most of the area.

It is one the areas discussed by the panel in the second part of our latest Doncaster Free Press round table discussion..

We gathered a panel together to discuss the issues around the town centre. With the Free Press' David Kessen chairing, Scott Cardwell (Doncaster Council assistant director of development), Margaret Herbert (Friends of the Mansion House), Fiona Keane (managing director, Keane Creative), Dan Fell (chief executive, Doncaster Chamber), and Insp Lynne Lancaster (South Yorkshire Police)

How can travel into Doncaster town centre be improved?

LL: "I go to a town centre business forum, and one thing that always gets raised is parking. They say that people can go to Meadowhall and park for free, but if you come into Doncaster you have to pay. It gets raised often."

SC: "If you compare us with other places, I went to Leeds, I was there for an hour and it cost me £12 to park."

DF: "I think that is normal."

FK: "People compare with Meadowhall because it is close."

SC: "Our highways team is working on a parking strategy and it is about striking a balance.. There are more flexible ways you can look at, creating times where maybe you attract people into the town, perhaps like at tea time."

DF: "I think that would be a good idea - creating parking to coincide with events or activities, to really catalyse it. Things like Small Business Saturday, where there's that push to support small independent retailers. There are all sorts of logistical issues you would have to manage around that. I think looking at things like that, what are the special events, would be worth looking at."

LL: "Some people complain that the markets miss out because there are only two hours parking at the markets car park. The Frenchgate, people pay as they leave, so its more flexible."

SC: "The problem with that is that if you let people dwell there for a long time, you don't get the churn of people going, so people would park there, and go and have their lunch. It's a difficult balancing act."

DF: "Scott is right, you have to look at what the data says and plan accordingly."

LL: "You can go to Sheffield and use Ponds Forge and get a discount on parking. Perhaps we should be looking at something like that?"

SC: "We've got headroom, it's not like we've got to find another car park. We're looking at what makes it easier for people to come into town I think that the car parking strategy needs to reflect that. We're doing more consultation on the parking strategy through winter. We've already done some with businesses. It will be released it 2018."

MH: "Public transport is not too bad during the day, it's better than it was but I've a friend in Hatfield Woodhouse who only has a bus every 60 minutes."

Is there still a problem with antisocial behaviour in the town centre?

SC: "This is not just about enforcement it's also about engaging with people.who have complex lives and supporting them. Already in less than a month we've engaged with over 750 people and over 160 have been signposted on to supportive services.

"The feedback we've had from market traders and business is they're noticing a difference. There is someway to go. If you're not geared up to enforce it it's not worth the paper its written on, but the partnership with the police and the council have ensured there is a strong presence able to enforce it."

LL: "We have run joint patrols, and we've been looking at where things are happening to make sure we've got people in the right place. We've been looking for any overspill, and have had three reports of rough sleepers outside Doncaster town centre since the Public Spaces Protection Order came in. One was someone sleeping in a shed in Thorne, the other were people in tends in Scawsby."

DF: "The business response has been really strong. We had been turning the screw on the local authorities. We had people saying it was having a negative impact. It feels like that has been listend to. Even some of the businesses that were vehement critics a few months ago, to their credit, have been on the front foot, saying this is a huge improvement. It's a difficult challenge and you've risen to it."

LL "We're working with the complex Lives team and the first time we encounter someone, we can give a conditional caution where they must engage with them for help . Without the Complex Lives team we'd have had to have taken them to court. We are offering people the chance to engage first.

"Riverside have said they have seen a fall in the number of people sleeping on the street."

How can we mix conservation with regeneration?

MH: "We've done a good job with the Mansion House, but I'm a bit concerned about the old Post Office buillding, which is grade two listed."

SC: "We have nice historic buildings, but we have lost some in the past. It's not in the control of the council to stop someone from pulling down a building that isn't listed. I would point to a good example in the cultural quarter with the new library and museum, where we always said we wanted to keep the old Girls High School frontage and what we've done with the design is now that's going to be encased in the building so there's a glass wall around it. You 'll be able to sit within a cafe, with a glass wall in front of you, and the girls' school frontage will be preserved in there.

"In the town centre we also need a balance of modern architecture that is respectful of the town. With the Civic Office and the Cast theatre we have modern buildings that create a sense of space, but we need to protect our history and character as well. That's not just about listed buildings its also about buildings that are of historic heritage. With the girls school the politicians were insistent they wanted to protect it, even though it was not listed."

MH: "The Grand Theatre is listed, and has 900 seats. We've had meetings about it and would love to see it back in use. It is in the town centre and could be used as a conference centre during the day because it adjoins the the railway station and the interchange.

"It's an amazing place and there are no actual structural faults in the building, the reason for that being that it was originally a circus hall and the base walls for that building were 6ft thick. That was done to take the weight of the elephants. There's a lot of work to be done obviously. It could offer something different to Cast."

DF: "It's not about one cultural offer in Doncaster, It's about a multiple. It's not about sealing Doncaster in a glass dome and taking us back to the 1930s and preserving it. We also want new modern buildings, and we want controversy in there as well. There have been some very interesting buildings which have gone up in the last few years, which have been divisive, but have got people talking about architecture in Doncaster. What a wonderful thing that is!"