The ‘forgotten’ shopping community in Bristol facing a future without a public car park

‘This car park is an integral part of the future for the high street’
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So far this month, Stockwood has lost its only post office and this week saw the closure of the large McColl’s store. And now, Bristol City Council has announced it is selling off the area’s only free public car park on Harden Road.

It’s one of four car parks being sold off in Bristol. The council claims they have ‘low occupancy’ with low demand for parking, and are also ‘hotspots for issues like anti-social behaviour’.

On the sunny Monday morning Bristol World visited, the car park at Harden Road was busy with locals using it to visit the nearby shops.

The adjacent piece of privately owned land was also busy with cars. Although essentially a delivery area for the Hollway Road shops, it has been used as a free car park for the past 50 years.

Over the years, the land has been the subject of several planning applications to build homes but they have alway been met with fierce opposition from local business owners and residents.

Three years ago, plans for homes on the site were refused by Bristol City Council, which once owned the land before selling it to private owners. If both bits of land are sold, it could potentially mean Stockwood won’t have a car park for people visiting the local shops, school and doctors surgery.

Nick had just parked in the council car park to visit the shops around the corner. He hadn’t heard the news that it was one of the four car parks to be sold off. He said: “I park here to use the shops regularly. The car park is ideal because it is free and I’m not here for hours, I literally nip into the local stores picking up a few essential items for the family.

“If I didn’t park here, I’d find myself parking on the main road, which isn’t ideal because you get dual parking, buses and commercial vehicles parking.

Stockwood resident Nick often uses the car park when using the local shopsStockwood resident Nick often uses the car park when using the local shops
Stockwood resident Nick often uses the car park when using the local shops

“This car park is essential. My two boys went to the local school and the car park was essential for parking away from the school in the mornings and af. The local doctors surgery has a car park but it’s not huge so a lot of people park here when they go there for appointments.

“The car park is integral to the economic success of the local shops because they wouldn’t survive without it but also for safety reasons.”

Mrs Iles had just visited the Co-op and parked in the council car park, although she admitted she didn’t know the difference between the two areas where cars park.

She said: “I always use this car park for the shops and for the post office until it closed. Now we haven’t got a post office, I have to go to Knowle but if they closed the car parks, I would probably go over to Asda at Whitchurch to shop.

“Everybody uses this car park and there are some large old people’s homes around the corner so they have visitors parking here, as well as the school.

“To be honest, I don’t understand anything about the world now, it all seems bad news to me. I was born just after the war started and things got better and better after that but now it’s bad again and Stockwood always seems to be affected.”

“What can we do about it?,” said Carole Ford, who has used the car park every week for the past 15 years when visiting her daughter who lives nearby.

“Where are we going to park if they close this? We can’t park on the main road. The council are naughty aren’t they? They have just doubled the cost of the green garden bins, too. It’s disgusting.”

Carole Ford is a regular user of the Stockwood car parkCarole Ford is a regular user of the Stockwood car park
Carole Ford is a regular user of the Stockwood car park

Jeff Woods has lived in Stockwood all his life. He thinks the closure of the car parks could signal the start of bigger developments in the area. He said: “They closed the post office, they’ll get rid of the car park and then they’ll get rid of the shops. I think they’re trying to get rid of everything up here to be honest. It should be against the law.

“Stockwood is forgotten now but when I was kid growing up here in the 60s and 70s it was brilliant, but it’s gone right down. I just wish I could win the Lottery so I can get away from here!”

Stockwood councillor Graham Morris says he is ‘disappointed’ to see the car park closure proposal which is going to Cabinet. He said: “The council talk about wanting to keep the local retail centres but they need to understand that car parking is required, particularly in communities which have an older demographic, such as Stockwood.

“The car park in question supports not only the local shops but also Waycroft School, Stockwood Medical Centre, the dental surgery and the extra care and sheltered accommodation within the area. All users thereby support the shops.

The Harden Road car park in StockwoodThe Harden Road car park in Stockwood
The Harden Road car park in Stockwood

“With the ongoing uncertainty over the car park behind Hollway Road it is critical this car park is retained until we know what is happening with the Hollway Road car park.”

A spokesperson for Bristol City Council said: “We have reviewed all the free district car parks we operate that serve local communities, to determine whether the maximum stay of three hours is effectively managing demand and deterring long-stay parking.

“The results showed occupancy levels are relatively high in ten of these car parks. We are proposing introducing parking charges at these facilities to encourage an effective turnover of spaces to support the local economy. It will also allow us to make the enforcement process more efficient.

“The proposals include pay and display tariffs of £1 an hour for a maximum stay of four hours, from Monday to Sunday between 8am and 6pm. Blue badge holders will still be able to use district car parks at no charge.

“The results also showed that usage at four of our free district car parks is low, and so we are proposing to sell them to make way for much needed housing.”