Car parking in Bruton has long been identified as being one of the town’s major problems. That is why the Town Council in 2020 took out a lease on the Station Road (Godminster) car park which runs until 2035, and provides parking for 23 cars.
Since taking on the lease, it has been the Council’s plan to improve the car park from its pot-holed state. Professionals were employed to draw up a plan to add drainage, improve the surface and add electric vehicle parking points. Unfortunately the costs of this plan have spiralled way beyond what the Town Council originally envisaged. The most recent estimates for the improvement costs are in the order of £130,000, on top of the lease/rates costs of approximately £120,000 over the remaining 12 years lifetime of the lease.
This £130,000 would greatly improve the quality of the car park but it would not provide a single extra parking slot, and most residents, local businesses and visitors would probably agree that the limited amount of parking spaces is the main parking problem. Indeed with some bays dedicated to EVs the effective capacity for conventional cars would be reduced. The other problem is that when the current lease expires in 2035 there is no guarantee that it will be renewed, and if it is not the entire investment would have to be written off.
South Somerset District Council had agreed to provide around a third of the costs from its own Council Tax revenues but deadlines on that funding are imminent. The Town Council had to take the difficult decision on how to proceed, with the prudent spending of Bruton Council Tax payer’s money being the most important factor. For context, the £130,000 represents approximately one full year of BTC’s revenues.
The Town Council regretfully concluded that the capital investment on that scale could not be justified given that it did not expand the amount of parking available and did not guarantee car parking in the longer term.
The Council will instead introduce an enhanced preventive maintenance schedule to prevent the car park surface from deteriorating over winter. It will also continue to negotiate with the landowner over the term of the lease and the expansion of the car park in the hope of providing additional car parking spaces in the future.
The Council is extremely disappointed that the improvement plans could not be proceeded with, but in these difficult times we judged that public money was best spent in other ways.