In 2013, Oakes Bros agreed to offer its long-derelict site near Hungerford Station to West Berkshire Council for use as a temporary car park. Oakes Bros’ long-term intention was always that the site would be developed. A three-year lease was agreed and nearly 100 parking spaces were created as a result. The lease lapsed in 2016 but the usage continued on the same basis. Many other landowners have been reluctant to lease land in such a way due to the problems of then recovering it, so Oakes Bros is to be commended for this.
Attempts to develop the site took longer than many would have liked, partly because of the restriction that the land be used only for commercial (not residential) purposes. However, recent changes in government policy to encourage homebuilding have recently contributed to plans being submitted which were approved in July 2018. This will result in 30 homes being built on this site and work is expected to begin fairly soon.
This will result in the loss of the temporary car-parking spaces. As these were always temporary – and as, since the lease lapsed, they technically haven’t existed at all – Hungerford is in some ways losing what it never truly had. This will, however, obviously have an impact on the town, the more so given the 100 imminent new homes in Salisbury Road, the improvements in the rail service due to the new bi-mode trains and natural growth in population and demand.
Perhaps because five different organisations – West Berkshire and Hungerford Councils, GWR, Network Rail and the landowners – were involved it proved difficult to make progress on identifying how Hungerford’s long-term parking problems could be solved. One solution might have been for West Berkshire or one of the rail companies to have acquired the land but for whatever reason this was not taken up and the opportunity has now passed. West Berkshire, and not Hungerford, Council is responsible for car-parking arrangements in and around the town: so it is West Berkshire that will ultimately need to decide what happens next.
Hungerford Town Council is aware and has been for some time that this is a serious matter. Many residents and traders have also expressed concerns. The most obvious risk is that station users park on the High Street or elsewhere, so reducing the spaces for shoppers and residents. “If 100 parking spaces are to be lost then another 100 need to be found if the town is to grow and prosper,” says Simon Evans who runs The Naked Grape wine merchants. Some changes to the High-Street regulations may also be needed. “Many towns have free parking for an hour or so,” says Christian Alba of the butcher’s shop, “and a maximum stay to deter commuters. It’s all a question of whether the intention is to encourage local businesses or not.”
In the light of these and other concerns, on 21 June 2018 the Chairman of Hungerford Town Council’s Highways and Transport Committee, Rob Brookman, requested a meeting with West Berkshire Council to discuss potential sites for a new car park which took place in late July 2018. Hungerford Town Council is looking at a number of possible solutions including investigating the feasibility of introducing a park and ride scheme. For more on these, please see below.
Hungerford is currently creating a neighbourhood development plan – click here for more details – and it’s to be expected that the issue of parking spaces and their regulations will form a part of this.
Updates to the situation are to be found below, the most recent at the top.
August 2019 update
Discussions continue. Five parties are now involved: Network Rail, GWR, West Berkshire Council, the Local Enterprise Partnership and Hungerford Town Council. A meeting involving all these parties is scheduled to take place in August at which it’s hoped that it will be agreed which of them will run the car park, which will pay for any feasibility study and how NR’s concerns over the matter of use and access can be addressed. It’s hoped that this will clear the major obstacles and enable the much-needed project to proceed.
It’s hoped that the re-development will also enable a number of other long-awaited improvements, such as the re-painting of the footbridge, to be done at the same time.
July 2019 update
Network Rail confirmed that its clearance procedure (see March 2019 below) revealed that it did require some of the land for access and other matters and that development could not proceed. However this is far from being the end of the matter as it appears that there are several ways by which the new proposals could resolve this issue.
April 2019 update
The progress so far was discussed at the Hungerford Town Council meeting on 1 April 2019. It was agreed that many of the matters doused below were largely aspirational until the clearance procedure (see March 2019 below) had been completed. At that point the options would become clearer and all the relevant HTC committees would be involved in order to decide the best way of proceeding and of raising the necessary funding.
March 2019 update
Any change of use to the area in or round a station or railway track requires Network Rail to perform a clearance procedure, which involves establishing if any part of the organisation might need to use of the land (for example for emergency access or storage of materials). The formal part of this has now been begun and the results are expected by the end of April. If any such usages are established the next step will be to see if these can be mitigated, such as by relocating a storage area.
Once this hurdle has been cleared, the search can begin in earnest for finding funding for the project. Several such sources have already been identified by HTC.
All in all, the project is on track and there’s nothing to suggest that the scheme outlined below (see maps) or something very like it cannot be fully realised. This will provide a number of tangible and long-term advantages to all users of the station.
February 2019 update
Discussions continue between Hungerford Town Council, Network Rail and GWR about the details of the proposed new car-parking arrangements in Hungerford (see aerial photos below).
It now seems that the current temporary parking arrangements at the Oakes Bros site will continue at least until the summer of 2019 while the development plans are finalised. It’s therefore possible that the new car park will be ready for use before the Oakes Bros one closes.
Hungerford Town Council has also been instrumental in improving the drainage on the platforms. This reduce or eliminate the deep puddles that sometimes appeared at the bottom of the footbridge.
January 2019 update
We understand that Network Rail will be contacting Hungerford Town Council about the proposals mentioned below on or soon after 23 January.
It’s currently uncertain when the Oakes Bros car park will close preparatory to the start of the development. When we know we’ll give this wide publicity as this will clearly require a change of plan for those that currently park there.
October 2018 update
It was announced at a meeting of the Highways and Transport Committee on 22 October that further work has been done on finding more parking spaces near the station and that further discussions have taken place with GWR and Network Rail.
Two sites have now been identified, one to the south and one to the north of the railway lines. The current proposals – and it must be stressed that at present they are just proposals and require further discussions, approvals and costsings – are shown on the two annotated aerial Google Maps photos below.
The proposals for the north side of the station include some features that don’t directly impact on car-parking but HTC has taken the view that there are advantages to seeing them as part of one project. As regards costs, HTC’s decision to join ACoRP means that sources of funding are now available which would not otherwise be.
Network Rail is expected to get back to HTC with its views on the proposals within the next two to three months. It’s therefore hoped that there’ll be a further announcement by the end of January.
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September 2018 update
Hungerford Town Council has identified six possible sites for an additional car park. On closer examination it was felt that one presented fewer immediate obstacles than the others: this is the land to the north of the station between the railway line and the Saxon factory. The site is owned by Network Rail, which has said it supports the idea in principle, but leased to GWR which will therefore also need to be consulted. Space should be available here for about 100 cars. HTC is currently conducting a feasibility study.
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This was written by Penny Post. Every effort has been made to provide a balanced summary but the post may contain opinions which do not reflect the views of the organisations mentioned in the text.