Villagers at odds with Cotswold MP's survey over new coach restrictions in tourist hotspot

The lack of dedicated coach parking spaces is causing traffic problems in Bourton
-Credit: (Image: Carmelo Garcia)

Eight out of ten people who took part in a survey into the problems coaches are causing in one of the most popular destinations in the Cotswold are opposed to a ban. Conservative MP Sir Geoffrey Clifton-Brown decided to undertake an impartial survey over the issue which has caused “parking chaos” in Bourton-on-the-Water since the start of the year.

However, concerns have been raised over the validity of the survey results due to perceived leading questions and bias in the questionnaire. On December 31, the Bourton Vale car park stopped taking coaches and since then the vehicles have been dropping off tourists on double yellow lines in Station Road and other parts of the village.

This has caused mayhem in the village, with turning coaches knocking over petrol pumps, blocking roads and causing other road safety issues. The parish council has since agreed to request an experimental traffic regulation order (TR) to better manage traffic and coach movements within the village while a long term parking solution is found for the coaches.

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The aim of the TRO is to understand how best to restrict coaches and includes Lankett Lane and "The Steeps" which would stop coahces turning off Fosseway A429 south of Bourton and geing stuck before Bakery on the Water.

It would also extend east from the Post Office corenr on Rissington Road up to Leasow Lane, Litle Rissington to prevent coaches coming from that direction. And coaches would be restricted from the west at the A429 and Station Road junction from the traffic lights to Post Office corner.

And there would be a restriction from Meadow Way junction with Bourton Link near Stanway Green to the miniroundabout, from Bourton Nusery past Travis Perkins and from the mini roundabout down past cCstwold Gymnastics, Colletts Garage and small units on industrial estate down ot Station Road junction.

There is already a TRO in place which covers High Street, Lansdowne, Moore Road, Victoria Street and Bow Lane and others south of the River Windrush. But the recent survey suggests 80 per cent of respondents rejected the proposal of a traffic regulation order costing £35,000 to restrict coaches from specific roads in the village centre.

The meeting heard how a coach attempted to drive through but miscalculated and knocked over a petrol pump
A Bourton Parish Council meeting earlier this year heard how earlier this week a coach attempted to drive through but miscalculated and knocked over a petrol pump at the filling station in Station Road -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

Some 3,000 surveys were delivered and 863 people responded. The ballot box was opened by an independent firm of accountants and counted before being inputted and analysed, according to those behind the scheme.

Of the replies, 410 responses were received through the on-line survey and 453 completed surveys were returned to a sealed ballot box at Bourton Post Office. Some 65 per cent of respondents thought that coach tourists were very important to the economy of Bourton-on-the-Water and a further 20% thought it was quite important.

In exploring this in more detail, 75 per cent thought that coaches were more environmentally friendly than cars; 76 per cent thought it enhanced the village’s reputation as a tourist destination and 80 per cent thought coaches provided jobs and allowed shops and businesses to stay open.

When asked a question about which of three solutions to the problem of coach parking would respondents support, 68 per cent thought an allocated area on Cotswold District Council's Rissington Road car park should be provided; 75 per cent preferring an allocated area in the industrial estate and finally 50 per cent of respondents preferring a designated drop off point.

Bourton-on-the-Water is a popular destination for visitors to the Cotswolds
Bourton-on-the-Water is a popular destination for visitors to the Cotswolds -Credit:Carmelo Garcia

Finally, 80 per cent of respondents were very disappointed with the way in which the whole issue of coach parking had been handled by all the parties involved in the future of coaches in Bourton-on-the-Water. Sir Geoffrey thanked those who took the time to complete the survey.

“I am very satisfied that the survey was conducted independently and that the results clearly show how important coaches are to the economy of Bourton,” he said. “It now remains for the interested parties to get their heads together to find a workable solution. If I am re-elected on July 4, I pledge to continue with all interested parties to find.”

The survey came about after a meeting was convened by Sir Geoffrey which included elected members of the Parish, District and County Councils together with the Highways Officer and coach operators to discuss the matter. During the meeting, it became clear that because the Bourton Vale Car Park was closed to coaches, other solutions have to be found so that coaches can park safely this Summer and in future.

A coach driving through Rissington Road, Bourton-on-Water
A coach driving through Rissington Road, Bourton-on-Water -Credit:Anita Maric / SWNS

But District Councillor Jon Wareing (LD, Bourton Village) says the “so-called" official survey on coach parking really was a missed opportunity to engage with residents on the topic of traffic and tourism in Bourton. He says some business people and residents saw it as a “cheap political stunt” and has received comments which range from outrage to frustration over the perceived leading and manipulative nature of the questionnaire.

“People didn’t feel there was any way they could register their views at all,” he said. “When this survey was first mooted, we were promised something impartial and unbiased.

“Instead, it was left in no doubt how the authors of the piece wanted you to respond. The opening page made it clear that tourism by coach is very important to the local economy by quoting a big figure. £2.5 million allegedly spent by people who visit Bourton by coach.

“Unfortunately, nowhere do we get a figure that allows us to see how big or small that number is in the context of the whole economy of Bourton. We were also instructed that Bourton is allegedly one of the twelve most important coach destinations in Britain.

"So, can anyone be at all surprised that the majority of respondents duly agreed that coach tourists are very important to the economy of Bourton-on-the-Water? The majority of respondents also voiced their dissatisfaction at the way this has been handled.

“Is this a rebuke to their Local MP who decided to get involved three months after coach parking provision was terminated in Bourton Vale Car Park? The topic had been debated for well over 20 months prior to this point!”

Cllr Wareing said he shares the frustration and dissatisfaction about the handling of this issue. “The debate has been acrimonious, abusive and misleading,” he said.

“Any attempt to push for constructive and balanced discussion has been obstructed by the narrow self-interest of a vocal few who have been insistent that the Rissington Road Car Park is the only solution.

“At the same time, were this to be an option on the table, demonstrating complete disregard for the residents and business-people whose lives would become even more disrupted, delayed and less safe, by pushing coaches deeper into the village round a narrow 90 degree bend at Post Office Corner and along the narrow Rissington Road.

“At the end of the day, the survey tells us nothing significant other than reinforcing the point that the majority of respondents want coaches out of the centre of the village. I’ve been banging this drum for a long time now.

“We desperately need somewhere on the periphery of the village, by the Fosseway, to park up all our visitor traffic, whether they come by coach or car. Hopefully, come July, our newly-elected MP, whoever this is, will be on the case from the start and make this a priority!”