MORE free short-stay parking could be introduced in part of Somerset to entice people back into town centres after the coronavirus pandemic.

Mendip District Council is carrying out a review of its car parking provision, seeking to improve the experience for both residents and visitors to the area.

The council has published the results of an initial round of consultation, with a report coming before the council’s cabinet on January 11.

The report contains a number of anonymous suggestions for how parking could be improved in both the short- and longer-term.

Here are seven suggestions which councillors and others have put forward to make Mendip’s parking better:

  • Better signage: Motorists in Frome and Glastonbury felt that signs directing them to both short- and long-stay car parking were “generally unhelpful”, and that changes needed to be made to stop visitors being deterred
  • Free short-stay parking: One Frome resident said it was unfair to pay for parking “when you only want to do a few things in town”, arguing a short free period would encourage more visitors from rural areas
  • Advertise town’s unique characteristics: One Glastonbury consultee said the town should be treated “a cultural and spiritual centre of worldwide importance and significance”, rather than having one-size-fits-all parking policies imposed upon it
  • More car parking spaces: There is demand for more car parking spaces in and around Glastonbury town centre to prevent visitors from spilling over into residential streets
  • More electric vehicle charging points: Visitors to the Mendip area may have “travelled some distance”, and more charging points in Frome and Wells especially would encourage greener transport
  • Better pedestrian and cycle links: Shepton Mallet and Street residents have called for further connections with the Strawberry Line cycle route as well as the Bath and West Showground and public transport pick-up points
  • Fewer time restrictions: Wells residents have complained short-stay parking is too “restricted” to allow ample time to be spent in the city centre, while long-stay parking in the area remains “a well-kept secret”

Councillor Lucie Taylor-Hood, who chairs the parking strategy working group, said there had been “good representation” during the consultation from rural areas, as well as the four towns and the city of Wells.

She said: “Clearly we need to treat all of the settlements very differently, because they are all very different places.

“The results really are invaluable in making sure that our draft strategy will be relevant and in tune with people’s experiences.”

Ms Taylor-Hood said that car parking would play “a really critical role” in helping Mendip’s recovery from the pandemic.

She said: “One of the things that came out very strongly, across all of the settlements, was the need for short-stay free parking.

“Just to enable people to pop in for half an hour – go to the bank, pick up a coffee – so we encourage people to use the high street rather than just going to Tesco or one of the other big supermarket chains.”

Councillor Edric Hobbs suggested that the council could look at implementing the “pre-paid clock” system of parking used in the New Forest national park.

He said: “When my wife lived in the New Forest, the district council used to issue a pre-paid clock. You’d pay for your parking as a resident at the start of the year, and that options allows you to pay in any council car parks during that year.

“It was at quite an affordable rate – probably below that you would get from issuing residents’ parking permits – and it would allow us to know how much revenue there were at the start of the year when it came to budget-setting.”

Council leader Ros Wyke concurred, stating: “I have on several occasions thought having a rural residents’ option on parking would be very welcome.”

A further update on the council’s parking strategy is expected to come forward later in the year, though this may be delayed by the pandemic.