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Thursday, 10 December 2015

Poundbury: Cars, Parking and Traffic - A Contribution to a Local Debate

The Poundbury Magazine (Spring 2015 issue), reported on the Residents' Association General Meeting of 10th December 2014. One of the matters arising at the meeting concerned parking issues: "A motion was put to the meeting that 'residents should not be admonished for non-compliance with the stipulations until the main parking problem has been addressed'. The motion was not supported by the majority present".

I decided to have a closer look at the literature on the subject. The parking issue came up again at the meeting of 9th December, 2015, with Graham Douglas's presentation of an interesting “mind-map”, so I looked again at what I had written a year ago (with some minor updates about developments around Queen Mother Square), to see if anything had changed.

We read a lot about the planning principles of Poundbury: of challenging the dominance of the car (keeping the car firmly in its place, reclaiming the streets, reducing the number of car journeys), of the absence of traffic signs, traffic lights, road markings, parking signs, directions or yellow lines.

The design of the streets is apparently intended to offer continuous, uninterrupted street facades; the streets and courts have been scaled to pedestrian use; the alignment of the streets, the road geometry, the traffic calming techniques such as short, restricted visibility round corners, varying road widths and visual pinch points, the informal sharing of space with little segregation of pedestrians and vehicles, the lack of rules governing the uses of shared space areas (with no clear priority or right of way) seem to stand in contrast to the rather strict Poundbury rules and stipulations concerning residential parking. Off-street parking is encouraged (in garages and designated spaces) but not stipulated (who would buy a house if not permitted to park on the street near where he or she lives, regardless of the availability of garages in courtyards?); many residents own more than two cars.

There is a greatly increased number of flats. Visitors, shoppers and out-of-towners have discovered that they can park wherever they like (some apparently leave cars indefinitely), that they can treat Poundbury as a large free car-park or free Park-and-Ride facility. Residents are sometimes admonished or criticised, fairly or unfairly, for 'un-neighbourly' car-parking, when they may be reacting to the overspill of car-parking from firms and an even greater overspill from "hotspots" like Queen Mother Square into neighbouring residential streets. Vehicle owners can cause obstructions by parking on corners, or by blocking and impairing views from houses by parking large vehicles in front of neighbours' windows.

It's acceptable to most residents that there is a specific stipulation against trailer caravans, motorised caravans or boats, but surely the definition (and implied prioritisation) of "visitors' car parking spaces" is not intended to cover on-street parking throughout Poundbury's residential streets?

If the planners were serious about keeping the car relatively "invisible" , would it not have been sensible to have incorporated much more underground parking space and provision, especially beneath Queen Mother Square?

At present, many streets have not been adopted by the Council, and the situation could change radically once they are adopted. When visiting Queen Mother Square on a busy day it's plain to see that the dominance of the car has not been effectively challenged. The car has not been kept in its place: the streets have not been reclaimed. Parts of Poundbury are still subservient to the car.  The Shared Space Concept and the 'Integration of Cars and Pedestrians' need more thought if a proper balance is to be achieved. There may not have been any accidents to date, because of the element of doubt and uncertainty. Everyone may be on the lookout for everyone else, but not everybody has tried to drive through Queen Mother Square on a really foggy night, or when cars are parked close to the roundabout where the statue of the Queen Mother will stand. The Garden Centre, Little Waitrose, Dorset Cereals, popular coffee shops and all the other shops, real estate offices and new apartment buildings are putting a severe strain on the space available for cars. When Little Waitrose becomes a larger Waitrose in 2016, when the Duchess of Cornwall Inn opens (2016), and the relocated school opens in 2017 (600 pupils with many parents probably finding it convenient to combine the collection of children with a visit to Waitrose), it is not difficult to imagine the increased pressure on parking.

As one blogger has commented with a note of irony, Poundbury is extremely car-friendly, especially to visitors and to those residents owning two or three cars.

(My starting-point for some points included the book “Poundbury, The Town that Charles Built”, by Dennis Hardy, 2006, and various official Poundbury planning documents).

The pedestrian at the centre, the car out of sight? YouTube video

A petition in The Brace of Butchers -

Related (Update), from MANCO 3 - The Poundbury Stipulations

Some Extracts:

Not to park or permit to be parked on the Car Parking Space any vehicle other than a private motor vehicle and not to carry out any works of repair to such motor vehicle.

Not to allow any trailer, caravan, motorised caravan or boat or other similar chattel to be brought onto the Property or to be parked in any Car Parking Space.

Not to erect or permit to be erected any television wireless or other aerials or satellite dish on the exterior of the Property.

Not to use or permit any parking space designated by His Royal Highness as a visitor’s parking space to be used otherwise than for occasional visitors parking.

Elsewhere in Dorchester - Councillors to discuss parking restrictions in Dorchester to stop traffic problems (Dorset Echo)

Update, 15th November 2019, letter from the Duchy to residents and business owners:

"Restricting sightlines...can immediately increase the risk of an incident...In addition, most residents at Poundbury have an allocated parking area or garage, normally to the rear of the property and the requirements in the Poundbury Stipulations (which apply to all properties) is for this to be used as the primary parking area".

Others have observed that this appears to be a recent stipulation-tweak which was not included in the deeds when they bought their houses, or in the stipulations at the time of purchase. The ambiguous term "primary parking area" is not helpful, they suggest, and is open to interpretation, and may lead to unacceptable degrees of  coercive "advice". No doubt they will point out that on-street parking is legally protected by right, not least as "the secondary (or alternative) parking area", provided it does not impede access to emergency services, or block sight-lines, ie by parking on dangerous corners. There are more than enough blind corners as it is.


  1. Hi Jim, thank you for this post. I don't suppose you know whether a motorhome is allowed outside a residential home in Poundbury. I live in Poundbury and I'm considering purchasing one for my family holidays. Cheers Russ

  2. Hi!

    You'll have to contact the Duchy office.