Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Parking – the dirty word in Warwick.

Parking – the dirty word in Warwick.

There, I said it! Parking. Hardly the elephant in the room of Warwick but so often overlooked. Just to clarify:

We know it’s an issue and we are looking at options.

It got me thinking though, how bad can the parking in Warwick be? Those who follow my antics on Twitter will know that I champion the 'flamboyantly parked' manoeuvre in the Underwood Wines van, so I'm not exactly an expert in finding a parking space. I have been practising though. With so many meetings for WPP in the centre of Warwick (that's the Market Square by the way) I have had to park 'properly' for hours. So it began. Where to park in Warwick.

I started, as many do, by trying to park as close to my destination as possible. Warwick is different from many towns with this. You can (if you're lucky enough) park right outside many of the shops and businesses in Warwick. I know this is not always a possibility but still - most towns don't let you right in the centre. I often end up driving past empty spaces to try and park as close to my destination as possible, only to have to continue past it to find another empty space further away!

As I'm sure most people do, I dismiss the idea of parking in Warwick's biggest car parks at St. Nicholas Park and the Racecourse as they are too far to walk. Lazy for an able-bodied young man like me, but a valid argument for the elderly or disabled. Parking at St. Nicholas is £2.80 for over 3 hours and only £4 for all day (50p charging overnight on top). Amazingly the Racecourse is only £1 for all day parking.

So, I don't go to these car parks. They're too far and I know I will only be a couple of hours. So I head for the street car parking, which is plentiful if you can find it. Yes, your parallel parking skills come into play and clever folk with parking sensors have the upper hand in many cases. But hey, you wanted convenient parking so you have to earn it right?!  Often I manage to park near St Mary's church. When I'm heading to the Rose and Crown this is ideal, as it’s not too far from the Market square. £1.70 buys you two hours’ parking which is the maximum stay. If you go into Warwick between 5-6pm there is often parking here and in New Street. Parking after 5pm in some of this area is free from 5pm until 8am or 9am the next day (no overnight charge).

New Street has a good, well-lit car park too. It’s just behind Hatton & Harding and opposite the Ironmongers and Scoops ice cream. Parking is limited to 3 hours for up to £2.00 and there is now an overnight 50p charge in force but I often find parking here too. 3 hours is ideal for the market and surrounding shops, but granted you have to be lucky with your timing here.

Parking in the Market Square is limited but short stay so turnaround is frequent. A quick nip to the market or any of Warwick’s lovely coffee shops is ideal from here if you time it right. There are often parking spaces here too. Usually a lap of the market will encourage a space to appear.

Keep reading, we’re nearly there! There is also the Westgate car park (by the new bus station). Parking spaces are small and often tricky to park in, and as for trying to get out of your car, well that’s another matter. I have stayed overnight in Warwick and paid the 50p overnight charge here. It’s an ideal location and again early evening sees more spaces. Don’t forget to get a ticket if you pop in to collect a curry from Saffron Gold! During the day it's a lottery again here like with the others. If you find a spot it's 3 hours maximum for £2.00. Ideal if you can get in.

Just across the road is Linen Street multi-story. As you might expect, it’s not pretty and fairly uninspiring to park in. Crossing the road afterwards is eased by the pedestrian crossing near the bus station. All day parking is available for £6.00 and overnight for an extra 50p. I have heard this week that the car park is locked at night though, so once you're in you're in!

Sainsburys is another option. Bit naughty this one, but you can abuse the big boys here and use their car park for up to 2 hours for free. I haven’t done this personally, but I know many do.

Stay with me! The Butts has a mini car park too. Long stay is expensive at £6.00 for over 6 hours and overnight at 50p. There are limited spaces, but a gorgeous walk through the back into town which I recommend anyway. I enjoyed finding this little route up to St Mary's churchyard.

Look, I won't list all the car parks because I'm bored already. There's loads, in fact there's around 900 long stay (over 6 hours) spaces. There are just under 2200 spaces in the 14 district council car parks.

Who wants to know where the FREE or untapped reserves are?

A-ha, got your attention again have I?

Did you know that Priory car park behind the police station for example is free to park in at the weekend? It’s barely any distance out of town. Also Barrack Street car park is available for parking at the weekend, despite the huge red sign outside mentioning clamping and permit-only. Read it... Monday-Friday. Inside are parking meters and on Sunday it's actually free!

My Point is:

YES it's a pain to park sometimes and for many this is really off-putting.
YES it's expensive in comparison to other car parks with better facilities and more spaces.
YES you need to make an extra effort.
BUT, and this is a big BUT. I have never not been able to park in Warwick. NEVER.

Give up by all means and go to cardboard mock-up towns with all the same brands on all the corners. Warwick was designed with only horse and carts for traffic, the castle dating back to 1068 when it was founded by William the Conqueror -he didn't pop to the shops in his Volvo!
It's not really designed for the motor car, but it has some fantastic independent shops and some amazing characters and community.

I'm keen to gauge opinion on this, so please add your comments below. Don't worry, Mary Portas lists car parking as an important part of the 28 recommendations to the Government, and we will be assessing the options we have. Parking just really isn't that 'sexy' is it!? It's not a pilot-winning idea but we recognise that you have highlighted it as a turn-off to our town. 

Making Warwick successful to visitors is important and car parks are the first thing many of them see. The car parks are our maître d’. They're the first impression and often the reason people drive through and not to Warwick. 

We are hearing exciting news on the grapevine about the future of parking in Warwick. News as we get it.  

Thanks for reading. As always, your comments are welcomed.

Todd @Underwoodwines & @WarwickTweetup

The data for the car park charges comes from the Warwick District Council's website


  1. What about doing a Park and Ride from Tournament Fields as there is little signage for available car-parking from the Jnc12 M40 exit.. there is enough waste-land there to do something like this?

  2. Finally a constructive insight into Warwick parking. I too have never failed to park and the on-street restrictions ensures a constant turnaround of spaces. I recommend the Linen Street car-park for customers during busy Saturdays, just a shame it's a 70's architectural disaster like shire hall. Both of which are not in keeping with the rest of the town.

  3. Good blog Todd, I must admit I did not know about the car park behind the now defunct Warwick Police Station.

    Years ago they said they were going to do up Linen St car park opposite our old printing factory.
    It was said that it's security, lighting and paint were going to be improved - still waiting !!!

    It never actually happened though, despite all the huff and puff at the time. I can see particularly at night why women might not want to park there.

    I can see why people want to park quickly in Warwick and preferably for FREE, the whole parking thing has become in recent years a "nice little earner" for the council.

    Add to that that few parking meters give change and there you have it, people won't park, stay or will park illegally and take the risk.

    Lets make the system fairer and do what they do on the Waitrose Car Park in Kenilworth, you can pay by Debit or Credit card and are not therefore shortchanged - I do not know how many parking meters in Warwick have this facility though or whether it is being promoted well enough.

    Most people do not want to pay £6 for parking a car in these cash strapped times and if they don't have THE CORRECT change then they can't park at all so they don't bother.

    Simples !

  4. Grea comments everyone.

    Parking needs to be simpler and fairer across the board.
    I merely wanted to highlight the fact that there 'is' plenty of parking just that it's such a messy set up.

    News on the grapevine that will improve this though. this space

  5. I would like to offer one positive note about car parking in Warwick that is On Street Parking in Warwick and Smith St in particular

    Since the advent of paid street parking August 2007, the availability of spaces is so much better in Smith St. Pre 2007, many cars were parked up for the day. Commuters would leave their car and proceed to Warwick Station for their journey to work etc. Many cars were left for the entire day leaving no spaces for people to park whenever they wanted to visit a shop. It wasn't just commuters who blocked up the parking, the business owners were also guilty of taking spaces, often leaving the car their all day whilst their business was open.
    Nowadays there is plenty of rotation of spaces as cars come and go after 30 minutes or an hour leaving spaces for new shoppers to park up. Quite a number of business's had noticed an improvement in trade since the current pay scheme was introduced. Now that's the positive out of the way.

    Many business owners and employees across the whole town have nowhere to park at all. Affordable parking for the day is rare. Warwick council offer business owners a limited amount of seasonal spaces within certain car parks. St Nicholas for example has a few but will set the car owner back an amount somewhere near £450.00 pa. More spaces for business rate payers and their employees needs to be addressed as well as affordable long term parking for visiting shoppers & tourists.

    The street parking charges cease at different times and in different locations. Smith St is free after 5.00pm whilst other streets become free after 8.00pm and at all times in between in various other places. Make the time of no charge the same across the town to avoid confusion.

    On another note, when Warwick BID was in the process of trying to get the yes vote, many parking inicatives were looked at. One was to offer free parking for events, such as St Georges day, Christmas events etc. this was proving very difficult and expensive because the local authority wanted compensation for their loss of revenue from the parking meters.
    Will the council adopt the same attitude, I guess we'll have to wait and see.

    Fantastic work by all involved. Well done.

  6. In reply to Paul - re Smith St.

    Ok so you like "On-Street paid parking". Would you happen to know why it is then that most of the businesses in Smith St have seen their turnover drop by 30% since the scheme was introduced.

    In particular, the carpet shop owned by Mr John Rostrun, a friend of my Fathers who was only complaining the other day, in conversation, that he had seen his turnover drop since the introduction of On-Street Parking.

    If the on-street parking meters either took cards OR gave change then that would be OK, but people feel mugged at present, so they drive past and out of Warwick. This is bounds to have an effect on turnover of the Smith St businesses.

    This comment has come more or less directly from one of the shop owners concerned. You can't get more accurate than that really.

  7. Arh, but is the turnover drop due to the parking or the general downturn of the recession.

  8. Many Town Centre Retail outlets are empty - not just in Warwick but across UK. I understand Parking fees are necessary to ensure rotation (otherwise some cars would remain indefinately!), but parking fees should not be so high as to prohibit much needed visits to our Towns.
    Warwick has ample parking which is rarely full, very quiet days too. Council should be doing all possible to make the town Centre as vistior friendly as possible, using all means to entice potential shoppers back to the High Streets. More shoppers = more cash into economy = more stores = more business rates etc!
    So here's the crazy idea - how about paying people to park by means of a voucher on the back of TIMED parking tickets - redeemable at participating Stores say £5.00 (could be higher).... supported financially by the stores and council. 1 x day per week (quieter day). Minimum spend - enough for store to generate enough margin to pay for itself...
    Warwick what do you think ?

  9. Mr Wheatcroft, I doubt very much that turnover has dropped for most businesses by 30% because of parking being charged for, there are probably a few other reasons, but this is a parking blog so let's stick to that. Parking has to be paid for in towns, it's an inescapable fact, no council is going to stop an easy revenue stream, you may say people drive away to Warwick and go elsewhere but I guarantee they pay for parking when they get there unless its to an out of town shopping park. Parking in Warwick is reasonable and plentiful (although it could be better signed) and I believe traders should be allowed some leeway on their parking costs. Warwick is a great town that attracts a lot of people, for it's great restaurants, it's attractions and the history that surrounds it...

  10. In Reply to Phil Hinks

    Touche Phil this is exactly what Waitrose do if you pay £1 to aprk and spend more than £5 in Waitrose then they will give you your £1 back. great idea

  11. In reply to anonymous - Actually you'll find I am 100% correct and I got that information pretty well first hand, so you doubting it being the truth does not alter the fact that it is still the truth, you doubting it is purely an uninformed opinion not a fact that has been mentioned to me personally.
    I bet if I ask some of the other shops there they will say the same.

  12. Having recently closed a business on Smith St I'd like to add... yes, the parking charges greatly improved the general turnover of customers on the street but given that most small businesses across the whole of the UK experienced approx 30% drop in turnover from 2008 due to the general downturn it's extremely difficult to measure the impact of separate factors. Here's something I used to hear EVERY day, 'I haven't paid for parking so I'm just running in and out' , '30 mins is not enough' 'the parking is awful', the answers? Improve the 'perception' of the awful parking which isn't actually true, increase the parking time from 30mins to 1 hour, make a parking ticket transferrable across the town because at the moment if you have 3 or 4 errands to run around town and you need the car you pay for lots of tickets and only use 5 mins on each, it would also encourage visitors to move around the town more instead of calling it a day and going home rather than move the car and have to re-pay for parking, I've seen it happen so many times.

  13. In reply to Ella I think you might have a point. Mr Rostrun in Smith St. was only saying the other day that turnover is now so low that he cannot afford to move premises and is more or less stuck when he is, or pay up the lease on his premises.

    Some of this is due to the way that parking in Smith St. has been implemented and the fact that these machines do not take Credit / Debit cards or give change. Something needs to change really in this respect.

    People used to be able to park on the small space between Smith St. and The Butts, I think that may have been built on though now. That was a usefully positioned space where you could get about 25 cars,
    originally with 15 minutes free parking - ideal !!

    People are quite lazy and if they cannot park where they want to shop then they won't bother or they'll find somewhere more convenient. It's been that way in smith St. for years and I have seen so many businesses come and go there over the years.

    The relentless march of the on-street parking machines certainly does not help matters in the slightest.

  14. As one who has sat in long, endless meetings about parking it's fair to point out that the parking collection people of WDC have been told to raise X thousands of pounds from parking (presumably to fund the pensions of the upper echelons of local government) but we have tried to get a reasonable deal. Linen Street is a shambles but we have promises of better things. We also have a promise to get rid of the up to 8pm charging but WCC is so inefficient it will apparently be 2014 before this can be 'considered'. We are dealing with people who at best only work 5 days a week and love following 'procedures'. It is a very long and hard battle but believe me there are lots of people trying very hard (and whilst trying to run their own businesses) to get some changes to the parking regime.

  15. Extremely well put David - Completely agree 100% and I have witnessed at first hand the behaviour of one Cllr. Doody, who I think is still unfortunately the leader of WDC, over an unrelated matter.

    He has already been reported to the Standards Council in London once for his untruthful way of manipulating certain situations, so I am not entirely surprised that situation regarding parking is being handled in the way it is.

  16. Here's an idea bit out of the box I suppose, how about getting an army of volunteers together to paint Linen St. Car Park inside. I'm sure the council would give us the paint, might take a while but it also might be useful - as they say if you want something done, do it yourself !

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