There has been a bit of a stooshie in Orkney of late on social media about an International Market in Kirkwall. According to one local business owner the market is taking up car parking spaces which results in fewer people being able to shop. This they feel is not good for Kirkwall businesses.
The Orkney News went out to look for ourselves.
Kirkwall on Tuesday 27th June at lunchtime was very busy. Two cruise ships were in which added to the normal bustle in Orkney’s main town during the tourist season. The International Market was attracting a lot of attention from visitors and locals alike.
The stalls are set up in an area that for the last few years has been used for short time parking. The area was used in the past for markets, stalls and the local fairs which are fundraisers for organisations. It deprives shoppers of a small number of parking spaces. So let’s look a bit further into this issue.
All the shops in Kirkwall seemed to be benefitting from the increased numbers of visitors in the town on the day I was there. People were getting something to eat, buying little touristy trinkets and just enjoying walking about in Kirkwall. The International Market did not seem to have affected trade in fact it may even have attracted people to linger longer. So now let’s look at the car parking side of things.
According to the local business owner the location of the International Market resulted in a loss of parking space: very true. But was this to such an extent that it in itself affected trade?
Car parking in both Kirkwall and Stromness is problematic. Orkney Islands Council has reduced the number of free car parks and increased the parking charges in the ones you pay for. The free car parks are now chock a block with vehicles. This has resulted in an increase in on street parking.
People looking for a place where they can park for free may be those not wishing to go to a fee paying car park as there were spaces available in some of those. But many of those parking on the street and in the free areas appear to be there for the day with probably the majority of them being people who work in Kirkwall.
The issue is then not the International Market taking up a few short term spaces in Kirkwall. The issue is with car parking itself.
Can it be solved by creating more car parks?
There were a few spaces (not many) left in pay for car parks. But the argument always is if you build more car parks more cars will come in and use them and it becomes a never ending tarmac nightmare.
For people who work in Kirkwall some questions need to be asked of the town’s businesses and organisations (including the council itself) :
- do workplaces provide any parking for their workforce?
- do workplaces encourage car sharing?
- do workplaces encourage bicycle use if appropriate?
- could people walk to work?
For many people the car is the only option because they may well live in an area where there is little to no public transport, or they may have physical mobility difficulties.
It is not even an issue confined to the two main towns of Orkney. People will park in passing places, in the middle of single track roads (to take a photo), on grass bankings beside beaches and in disabled bays when they are perfectly fit and able to walk themselves.
Some of this is, therefore, down to driver education (parking in passing places), some of it is down to selfishness (parking in disabled bays) and some of it is down to laziness (parking on grass bankings for easy access to the beach).
The issues over car parking in both Kirkwall and to a lesser extent in Stromness require partnership working between businesses, organisations, residents and the council to find perhaps several solutions which unless dealt with will actually deter people from shopping locally and they will just go online to do it instead.
Reporter Fiona Grahame