Marlborough gives birth to its own solution for the parking crisis

Written by Gerald Isaaman on .

The first look at a potentially international project to reduce the increasing parking crisis was shown to members of Marlborough town council on Monday night – by one of its own members.

Councillor Martin Houlden demonstrated how the introduction of Parkshare will encourage those with free parking sites to help those seeking parking space by the adoption of his creative scheme.

And 38-year-old Mr Houlden revealed that his  intention is that Marlborough will be the guinea pig this week, to show the rest of the country – and others abroad – how his initiative will be of mutual benefit to all those involved.

His aim is to enable householders and businesses with unused daytime parking space to offer it online for a daily or weekly fee or, if they wish, enable people to barter for a site by offering goods or simple services such as cutting the lawn or running a few errands.

“It’s very Big Society,” says Mr Houlden, whose Parkshare project was greeted with acclaim by fellow councillors after they had quizzed him as to how it will work.

The project was described as “brilliant” and  “absolutely amazing,” though there were concerns that older people are not always computer literate and others worried about how disputes, may be over damage to a parking site, are sorted.

But Mr Houlden insisted these were problems that could be easily solved.

He is the ideal person to promote such a project since he has been running his own specialist computer company, South Design Ltd., in Marlborough for the past 11 years and lives nearby in Burbage with his wife and two children.

He conceived the Parkshare solution to parking problems when he stood – unsuccessfully --  as an independent candidate for Devizes at last year’s General Election, and then canvassed the idea while standing for election to Marlborough town council last August.

  “Most people I spoke to thought it was an excellent idea, and so that spurred me on to start the design and project planning,” he told Marlborough News Online. “So far it's taken about six months to get to launch stage, though I'm expecting to get feedback that will  have to be acted upon to get it 100 per cent ready.”

“It's not just nationwide. I have actually built it in two additional languages  -- French and German -- so that it can be used internationally. The site is completely free to use.”

“But it takes a 10 per cent cut from the fee that the owner receives if -- and only if - they successfully rent a space they've advertised.”

“Of course about half of this fee is then sent off to the payment processing company – in this case PayPal -- so we're left with a margin of around four to six percent, depending on size of transaction.”

And he added: “The other alternative is to list a parking space as a ‘Community’ space, which means that instead of a financial payment, the 'seller' is prepared to trade goods or services.”

“So, for example, you could find someone who has a space near the town, who might not be mobile enough to mow their own lawn, or nip to the shops. In that scenario, the person parking would have to agree to run a few errands, or get the lawnmower out at the weekend.”

“Any ‘Community’ spaces are completely free of charge, and we don't get any financial benefit whatsoever.”

His Parkshare site has been in what he calls 'alpha' test mode since March. “We're now in 'beta' mode which means a release version is now ready,” he reveals.

“There will of course be a few bugs for us to fix before a nationwide release, but I think that Marlborough is an ideal place to test the features, and see what users think.”

“As for charges, well that's up to the people who rent the space to decide. My advice would be to look at the cost of some of the Permit Parking areas within the town, then work out if your property is in a better/worse location, and price accordingly.”

“My guess would be that a good spot near the centre of town could easily fetch £40 to £50 per month.”

He is now hoping the official launch date is likely to be in June, but the beta release to Marlborough residents is this Thursday.

“Once we're ready for the full release we'll be emailing our business lists, creating press releases and, of course, launching the iPhone app to accompany it into the App Store.”