Car sharing as one solution to tackle employment issues
Three Parishes Big Local
Nick Heard, chair of the Big Local partnership in Three Parishes Big Local, talked at the spring event in Birmingham about how their Big Local area is working with Shropshire Council on a car sharing scheme.
The Three Parishes Big Local partnership is setting up a car sharing scheme, as a way to tackle the issue of transport in the area. During their consultations, the issues of transport and accessibility kept coming up, especially in relation to travelling to, or trying to travel to some of the large employment areas in the locality. Nick Heard is chair of the Big Local partnership.
The three parishes are Gobowen, Weston Rhyn and St Martins, in the north west of Shropshire. A former coal-mining area, it is very rural. Nowadays it is something of a dormitory area, and many residents travel quite long distances to work.
The partnership wants to make sure that people in the area do not suffer from exclusion because of the area’s geographical isolation, and in fact, that the area can profit from its rural position. In some senses, Three Parishes is very well connected, with a direct train line from Gobowen to Birmingham in one direction and Chester in the other, and the A483 dual carriageway which goes to Chester and the A5 to Shrewsbury. However, local people find the bus fares expensive and whilst the bus services are reliable and regular, they aren’t frequent and don’t run in the evenings. People without access to a car are limited in where they can get to and when. If they take a train, they still need to be able to get from home to the station, and from their destination station to work.
To try and tackle this challenge Nick and other members of the Big Local partnership tried to find out more about the issue and what they might be able to do about it. They realised that there might be several different solutions.
When Nick was visiting friends in Wiltshire, he noticed a series of roadside signs advertising the county’s car share scheme, and an idea was born! Back at home in the three parishes, Nick and the Big Local support worker went online to find out more about car sharing.
They discovered that some schemes were based on individuals advertising, whilst others were membership-based. They also found out a lot about the potential advantages; not only could people save money, but it was a way to meet new people, and could help reduce parking and congestion problems.
The partnership found out about Shropshire Council’s car sharing scheme and had several meetings with people from the council, who were very positive. Three Parishes decided to join the Shropshire-wide scheme, and the Council is helping by doing the work required for the website and producing the road signs which are being put up at key sites around the three villages to advertise the scheme. Three Parishes Big Local is only paying for the signs to be put up, at a total cost of £1,000, which is much less than the alternatives that Nick had investigated. The signs have been specially designed and clearly show the Three Parishes Big Local logo.
The process has taken nearly two years, much longer than Nick had originally anticipated, but he’s excited that it’s all about to happen. Nick says:
“we’re tackling a culture change, so it will take a long time”.
But he is happy that they’re trying out a solution to one of issues most frequently raised by people locally. Also, he’s expecting that more people will become aware of Big Local because of the prominent road signs, which will be a significant additional benefit.
The partnership is continuing to look into other options to improve transport, and is actively negotiating with Shropshire’s Rural Community Council about a local ‘Wheels to Work’ scheme for young people. They are also interested in finding out whether a Saturday evening minibus service to Chester or Shrewsbury might be feasible.
To find out more about how the scheme works and what the benefits are, please visit Three Parishes Big Local’s website.