Call to stop free parking on main road into Malham to ease congestion
PAUL Morley is absolutely right. Even an intensive bus service would make little difference to the severe traffic and visitor management problems of Malham. The root cause of what we are now experiencing is the National Park Authority and North Yorkshire Council’s total inability to deal with these problems.
What is happening in Malham every busy weekend, in a nationally important, iconic area of a National Park, can best be described as an abysmal policy failure, well below standards of visitor management experienced in most National Parks outside the UK.
Both Authorities’ pro-car and anti-public transport policies have to change.
A pragmatic strategy is needed, one that recognises that Malham’s problem is severe, but only on around 25-30 days a year – Bank Holidays and peak summer weekends. On other days the problems are more manageable.
First and foremost there needs to be the removal of the free parking on the public highway on the main road into the village – at last count over 50 cars stretching nearly a quarter of a mile towards Kirkby Malham. Purely by arriving early these visitors get free all-day parking, causing maximum congestion and visual impact in the landscape. This gives totally the wrong message to visitors.
Simply converting more green fields to mass, unsightly car parking to absorb ever more cars simply exacerbates the problem by encouraging yet more car use, as well as congestion and wear and tear on local footpaths and facilities, and is no long term solution.
All visitor parking should be paid for. Removing casual on road parking and pricing all off-road parking in order to influence visiting patterns are the best mechanism to control numbers. On the peak – shall we call them “Red” days – charges should be at least £15 per car for a stay, perhaps more, for a visit longer than say 3 hours. If this sounds excessive, then remember that it now costs £12 to park at Bolton Abbey and this has had only modest impact on visitor numbers, the money raised being used to maintain the many excellent visitor facilities at the Chatsworth Estate. However, if less crowded days were cheaper, this would result in people choosing to visit on less busy days – perhaps “Yellow” days at peak season but on weekdays at say £10, or “Green” days at low season at a level about what they are now. Evenings would be free. The main now over-crowded official Visitor Car Park at the National Park Centre should perhaps be mainly used for bus, coach and short stay parking.
If and when all car parks are full, at a level of visitor numbers that the village can comfortably absorb, then “Malham Full” notices need to be displayed even at the village entrance and on the A65. Again the near universally available Stat. Navs. that give drivers advance notice of roadworks, or messages about congestion, as well as local radio, could be used broadcast the situation to people well before they arrive, but also with information about alternative days – and also the availability of bus services. Messages could also be changed at short notice – for example on days of inclement weather.
Gordale Lane should be completely closed to visitor traffic with a free shuttle minibus for the elderly or disabled. On a recent visit I noted over 40 cars parked around tiny Gordale bridge, urbanising another wonderful setting. The average age of drivers and passengers was around 35, people who would have benefitted from a brisk 20 minute walk from the village. At the same time, a decent bus service to the village must be provided. An hourly bus service from Skipton and Gargrave could be operated using just two low emission 30 seater buses and three drivers, a massive step change in provision compared with the three buses a day now available only on summer Sundays with just two on Saturdays. Incredibly, Mondays to Fridays there is no afternoon return bus after 1.35pm – making a day trip to Malham without a car impossible.
This reflects North Yorkshire’s absurd “locals-only-anti-visitor” public transport policies which also means, except for Dalesbus and Moorsbus, managed by dedicated volunteers on a shoestring budget, no bus services on Sundays and Bank Holidays operate anywhere in rural North Yorkshire. But Bolton Abbey and Burnsall are impossible to reach by bus even on Tuesdays and Thursdays, even in the summer school holidays. And when North Yorkshire do run buses on these routes, they are cramped 16 seater minibuses that often leave people behind on busy days. The perfect way to discourage bus travel. What is urgently needed is a good quality, well promoted bus service between Skipton bus and rail stations and Malham, using proper, medium sized vehicles which at busy times can carry standing passengers, yet suitable for Malham’s narrow roads. This should operate daily 8am - 6pm throughout the season, and not just on peak days.
Extra income from car parking could both help pay for traffic wardens to enforce the scheme (essential) and also help finance the bus service, with cheap return fares offered for families to encourage park and ride from Skipton or Gargrave.
This would will also help to spread the visitor load, give young people and those on lower incomes opportunity to visit the National Park, and create strong messages to encourage greener forms of travel. It would also benefit local businesses and give employment opportunities for young workers in catering and other local service industries.
In our Climate Emergency, and given that visitor transport is now the largest single cause of carbon emissions in the Yorkshire Dales, action – not talk - is long overdue in Malham.