The debate has started earlier than usual, with unexpectedly warm weekends drawing in the day-trippers and coinciding with an initiative by a resident to set up a '1 way for Whit' Facebook campaign. Also, a new draft local transport strategy has just been published (perhaps best explained from a Whitstable viewpoint by Councillor Neil Baker here) and which has led to local debate about a possible park-and-ride scheme.
But what's slipped under the radar (a bit of a shock to some unwary locals) is the sudden implementation of a seven-days-a-week parking ban in the town centre over the last few days.
Plaques like this one outside St Alphege Church were attached to High Street lamp-posts at the start of last week. They signal two key changes:
- 'no parking' now applies also on SUNDAYS
- loading times are restricted to less busy times of day
I really hope, though, that these simple limitations will go some way to easing bottlenecks at peak times so that we don't need a one-way system which sends traffic including lorries and buses along unsuitable residential roads.
Of course, though, they won't work unless enforced. We've long had parking restrictions in Whitstable town centre, but most of us knew we could get away with a few minutes in a loading bay or on a double yellow because there just weren't enough 'enforcers' to cover Whitstable and Herne Bay.
As the driver attending church painfully found out - not any longer. Canterbury City Council has been recruiting more staff in a renewed effort to crack down on illegal parking, so we may actually see a real difference.
But while visitors from now on might have less trouble actually getting into Whitstable, they'll still have to face the almighty obstacle race of going round and round inadequate car parks chasing elusive spaces. Let's hope, for businesses' sake, with our new streamlined High Street they don't find it all too easy to turn round and go home.