Former Packet journalist and local historian Mike Truscott reflects on Falmouth's chequered history of parking

As he snipped away at what’s left of my hair, my barber commented:  “Falmouth’s becoming a ghost town again – just look at all the empty shops.”  Then, after a brief pause:  “As for the parking, well, it’s never been so bad, has it?”

My own observation is that, on the second count at least, he was spot on. 

I have little doubt that, for whatever reason, it has never been so difficult to find a parking space in the town.

“We should have had a multi-storey car park ages ago,” I said, off the cuff, when chatting with a neighbour returning from parking his car a long, long way away from his home.

And that set me thinking - to the time when Falmouth did have a multi-storey scheme all of its own.

Trouble was, it split the local community down the middle.  And the scheme’s eventual collapse sparked various dire warnings about the town’s future which, I suspect, might just have some of the scheme’s high-powered supporters, or their ghosts, saying “I told you so” now.

The controversial Well Lane scheme ran and ran, and came up against a solid brick wall of very well organised opposition in the shape of the ad hoc  Falmouth Action Group.

It went to a public inquiry in 1982, with the inspector refusing Carrick District Council’s application for a compulsory purchase order affecting a small area of land required for the development. Essentially, the scheme fell on a relatively small technicality involving the proposed sale of houses for sale on the roof deck.

Ruth Jones, the action group’s formidable secretary and local estate agent, hailed the decision as “a victory for common sense and proof that Falmouth should not be governed by Truro.”

The group called for construction of a multi-storey car park at “the only satisfactory alternative council site, at Town Quarry.”  (We’re still waiting.)

Councillor Leslie Parry, Carrick chairman and prominent local businessman, warned:  “This is a body blow to the future of Falmouth.  It is an incredible decision.

“Truro has shown that a correctly sited multi-storey car park is an absolute must for the development or even maintenance of a shopping centre.  I think the effects on Falmouth are incalculable.”

David Tucker, president of Falmouth Chamber of Commerce, reflected:  “I think a number of businesses in the town have held on because the proposed car park was at least a glimmer of hope for improved trading. 

“I personally believe that Falmouth cannot survive as a viable shopping centre without a centrally situated car park of large size.”

And that was then – a long, long time before the great online shopping revolution was even the germ of an idea. 

A multi-storey car park might go some way to solving Falmouth’s current parking problems . . . but would it make any appreciable difference to the town’s high street outlook?

For this, and a host of other reasons, we live in interesting, not to say scary, times!