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Aberystwyth promenade parking restrictions plans backed despite objections

Ceredigion County Council's offices at Penmorfa

A PLAN for parking restrictions on Aberystwyth promenade as part of a multi-million pound redevelopment of the seafront area of the town has been backed by senior councillors despite hundreds of objections.

At the May 14 meeting of Ceredigion County Council’s Cabinet, members were recommended to back the introduction of traffic restrictions along the seafront promenade.

The proposals would create a two-way system at the Castle end of the prom, with funding from a previously-awarded £10.8m Levelling Up grant.

Some £4.8m of the money would be used to “fund active travel connectivity improvements between the Castle, the Old College, and the Harbour area,” with fears the funding could be lost if the scheme did not go ahead.

A public consultation to the plans saw 327 objections, including local member Cllr Endaf Edwards, Aberystwyth Town Council, the Coastguard, Aberystwyth and District Civic Society, and Hywel Dda University Health Board.

A 726-strong online petition, Reject the Proposed Council Changes in Aberystwyth, was also received, which Cabinet members were informed would count as one overall objection.

Grounds for almost all objections refer to the loss of parking, and impacts on businesses, residents, commuters, and tourism.

Some objectors also questioned the actual road safety and economic benefits that would be afforded by the scheme, and whether it aligns with the council’s strategic objective of boosting the Ceredigion economy.

A report for members said the contentious issue of parking space losses was due to conditions in the Active Travel guidance, improving access to the prom and surrounding area for walkers and cyclists.

“The existing active travel cycle route along the seafront roads are already part of the National Cycle Route (NCR 81), but there is insufficient width afforded to cyclists, bearing in mind that two-way traffic flow is permitted through a carriageway width of about 4.0m – 4.5m. This means that the existing NCR is not Active Travel compliant and squeezes the space cyclist are given or intimidates them if vehicles are following or are met head- on, which is far from ideal.

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“The Highway Code requires vehicles to allow at least 1.5m space when passing or overtaking cyclists at speeds of up to 30mph which cannot be accommodated within the existing carriageway whilst retaining the current use. Therefore, creating space on the promenade for them makes for a safer environment, but also, if cyclists continue to choose to use the carriageway, there will be more space without the danger of vehicles opening their doors or overtaking very close.

“Clearly the available highway space between the sea wall and the Castle wall needed to be redistributed and the most obvious element to remove was the parking as this did not impinge on the available promenade width or the carriageway width that should be available to allow traffic to flow freely and safely.”

Speaking at the Cabinet meeting, Cabinet Member for Highways and Environmental Services and Carbon Management Cllr Keith Henson, who recommended the scheme was approved, said it would “improve the entire area for tourists and locals,” and was “considered to be beneficial to the town’s vibrancy”.

He said the loss of some 42 parking spaces would be countered by extending the Maes Yr Afon car park, expected to create an additional 150 spaces, which would be “actually closer to the centre of Aberystwyth”.

Council Leader Bryan Davies, referring to the £10.m funding, said: “As a leader I can’t take that away from Aberystwyth or Ceredigion; as Cabinet leader and resident I can’t put my name to something like that, we need every penny in terms of grants,” adding: “There’s a chance we will lose that £10.8m if we don’t follow the recommendations.”

Deputy Leader Cllr Alun Williams said the public consultation had failed to engage with people as it hadn’t fully explained the purpose of the project.

“People seem to think the purpose is about reducing the parking spaces; people through no fault off their own haven’t seen the big picture. The truth is the UK Government doesn’t give councils £4.8m without very solid evidence and reasons.

“Aberystwyth prom will one day be a very different place in a very good way which will bring more people in and contribute to the local economy, local people and businesses will be the biggest beneficiaries.”

He said that if any section wasn’t considered to be suitable for the Active Travel regulations, “the whole scheme would be very likely to be lost”.

“People certainly wouldn’t forgive us losing £4.8m from the Ceredigion economy and all the opportunities that would create.

“You certainly wouldn’t need to be a very opportunistic Tory to consider cancelling a grant in an unwinnable [general election] seat into other areas that I’m sure would really appreciate the £4.8m diverted from Ceredigion, that’s how brutal politics is in an election.”

He added: “I’m honestly angry about the poor quality of the consultation, it’s actually as dishonest as ‘spin’, it could’ve genuinely inspired those with vision.”

Cabinet Member for Culture, Leisure and Customer Services Cllr Catrin M S Davies said there were “lessons to be learned” from the consultation, adding: “Only yesterday I understood what the benefits would be”.

“We have to give people the story, we can’t expect people to understand all this tech stuff, we need to explain so people understand what it being offered, there is a weakness in the communication here.”

Cllr Elizabeth Evans warned: ”What you’re managing to do is disenfranchise local businesses; it will be exciting but I don’t feel you’ve really taken heed of the objectors.”

She added: “In the short term it will hurt business, I can’t see how it won’t.”

Members agreed to make the traffic order.