A Serious Warning to University of Gloucestershire Students: They Aren’t Lying To You About Cars (Updated for 2015)

In past years I have written advice for Freshers of the University of Gloucestershire. My friends who work or studied at the uni have added to it. You can find it at Fresher’s Week in Cheltenham: Six Things I Wish I Had Known   This article has been updated for September 2015, with the updates in bold…

This year, a warning. The University has probably told you not to bring your car to uni. You may think this is insane. No, they are sensible. Here is why.

Most housing developments round the college have allocated to them in planning between 0.3 and 0.5 parking spaces per household as far as I can make out. So basically, at best you or your neighbours can park outside your houses.

Now a lot of working families have 2 cars – this is luckily offset by he fact that many people in Cheltenham don’t need a car at all, or can’t afford one, or can’t park the bloody thing. However if a typical student house with 4, 5 or 6 residents (that typical student terraced house was originally built for a family of 2 adults and a kids) all bring a car along – you are going to have hell from your neighbours from Day One. Maybe fortunately, that won’t happen, because you won’t be able to park in your street.

The council has recognised there is not enough parking, so residents – meaning homeowners in the main – can pay £70 or so for a permit which lets them park in their streets, but of course there are only half the number of permits needed.  Most of Cheltenham is covered with these permit schemes, street after street, and you are not going to be able to get a permit.

UPDATE September 2015: The permit scheme has now reached St. Paul’s, so if you park in a street around FCH, and are not a resident of a house there with a valid parking permit, you will be fined £70 each time.  This has already claimed victims in Normal Terrace, because our alleyway does no look like a road and so some of my neighbours assumed the permit scheme would not be enforced here, despite the signs. A friend of theirs who left their car outside cos he had had a few drinks got done on the first day of the scheme.

The permits are assigned at a maximum of two per household; the first one is £50 or thereabouts, the second I believe £100. However I tried to get a second one and was told they were all sold out for my area, and that was on August 3rd, two days after the scheme went live, so I don’t think you are likely to get one.

I’m also going to stray off topic and note that my housemate, a strong willed woman who has lived in the area for  over a decade, no *longer* feels safe on parts of the Lower High Street or around Swindon Road after dark on her own. I have taken to meeting her, but I feel a bit worried at times on the Lower High Street myself now. This is a fairly recent development – within the last year – and there has been added security cameras and so forth after some attacks on women around the Swindon Road/Matalan car park area, but I saw a couple of young ladies chatting tonight in what I thought was a pretty dodgy place where I would certainly not loiter, and they seemed quite comfortable.

Cheltenham is a very safe place indeed, with a few mildly dodgy areas, but a quick search on public data shows between 60 and 90 incidents of “violence or sexual assault” per month in 2015 within one mile of FCH, or about two and a half a day – though incidence is higher in the warmer months, and yet drops over July – no students around? Dunno? You can check out the stats here. A one mile radius of FCH covers most of the town centre, but click on the area button to see.  Now fear of crime is probably a bigger problem than crime at times, and the odds of you being attacked by a stranger are  very low, but please be sensible! 

So if you bring a car, where can you park it? Well you can rent an off-road parking space or garage- they are like gold dust, and the one we have costs £800 a year, but anything from £800 to £1000 is reasonable. If you will be driving home every week, or to work somewhere not serviced by public transport, that is one solution. Another is Cheltenham is well serviced with car parks – but it is going to cost you at least that much and involve getting up to put tickets on your car unless you can buy a season ticket.

Now if you park your car near a couple of our sites, its pretty likely to be vandalised, broken in to or wrecked anyway, because these areas are not actually *very nice* – and if you park outside someone’s house, they might just torch your car. Now things are much better than twenty years ago, but seriously, I have lived here for decades now and I would not take the mickey out of the locals around FCH or Hardwick; I am have a healthy respect for my teeth. Violence is uncommon  – I was the victim of unprovoked violence in day time on the streets only twice in all my student years, and I was unlucky — but seriously, as some of my friends who live in St Pauls and can’t get their cars off their drives because the four students in the house across the road all brought a car will tell you — annoying your neighbours is a bad idea in these parts. You are going to have a bad time.

Still, if you figure you can afford the insurance, aggro and prescriptions/dental work, you could bring a car. However what good is it? If you are in Cheltenham in any sensible student housing you are close to either the town centre or Bath Road, and it is unlikely you will need to drive anywhere. I have lived here since 1987 without a car, 27 years now. I went nightclubbng, shopping, and to lectures on all campuses, and was just fine.

Students who park in St Pauls often regret it!

Students who park in St Pauls often regret it!

Still you are determined. OK, so you drive to The Park, or FCH, and then what? There is uni permit parking, and some space in the car parks for those with special needs, but they cost.  Otherwise, you can just drive round the streets looking at the permit only parking areas designated for residents, and wondering what the hell you do now.

So don’t being a car. There is a fine inter-campus bus service, which I campaigned for back in the late 1980, so you can thank me later. It has stopped being free a couple of years back, but it will get you from A to B. Or there is the Honeybourne Cycle Path,  Have a look at this guide to cycling in Cheltenham – especially the map. Copies are usually available from FCH and possibly Park Reception.

From FCH or Hardwick it is a minutes ride to a path that leads up to this mercifully flat (no gradients as former railway line) route which will take you up to the Railway Station, where you can cut through on to the Landsdown cycle path to St Stephen’s Road then down to The Park; 2.38 miles of easy cycling. From Pitville Halls cut through by the Pump Room, down the hill to Pitville Park and through to Tommy Tay;ors Lane then join the Honeybourne by the Leisure Centre. Cycling is extremely popular in Cheltenham right now, and if you do run in to the problems you can at least out-pedal any hassle one hopes. 🙂

So yes I have painted a bleak, but I think realistic picture. Use the bus, walk or cycle. Don’t bring your car to university, unless you can afford to pay for parking. It’s going to get even worse as the Permit Scheme finally reaches the far side of St . Pauls and Peters this year,

And hey it’s not all bad. Here are some University of Gloucestershire ghost stories for you!

FCH Hall with fake ghost

CJ X

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About Chris Jensen Romer

I am a profoundly dull, tedious and irritable individual. I have no friends apart from two equally ill mannered cats, and a lunatic kitten. I am a ghosthunter by profession, and professional cat herder. I write stuff and do TV things and play games. It's better than being real I find.
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9 Responses to A Serious Warning to University of Gloucestershire Students: They Aren’t Lying To You About Cars (Updated for 2015)

  1. andrewoakley says:

    And now, my traditional rebuttal.

    First off, everything CJ says is true. However, CJ lives in the town centre. Everything he says about not taking a car is true, ***IF*** you live near one of the campuses or the town centre. If you live further out of town, most houses will have a driveway and there are few on-street parking restrictions (Charlton Kings, Pittville Park and Bath Road areas are the exception, they’re awful for cars, note that you can’t afford to live in Charlton Kings or Pittville Park anyway).

    There are some good reasons why you might need to take a car. Mine was that my family lived in a remote rural area with effectively zero public transport (the tourist steam train + 3 mile walk was the most reliable form of mass transit to my village). It simply wasn’t realistic to expect my parents to ferry me 20 miles to/from the railway station in the next county every time I visited.

    So, if you’re determined to take a car, it can be done, but you have to do some planning.

    Top choice would be to find a house or apartment a short walk from your main campus that has a driveway where you can park your car off the road. Around Park, notably St Stephens Road, this isn’t as difficult as it might be in a big urban city. But it’s still going to be more difficult to find, and a bit more expensive, than normal student digs. When looking at apartments, make sure you ask how many parking spaces you will be allocated. It is rarely a free-for-all; most apartments will have specific, usually numbered, off-street driveway spaces. If the spaces aren’t numbered then still pay attention to how many spaces your flat is entitled to, because bad parking is guaranteed to cause problems with your neighbours.

    If you live out of town, you still aren’t going to get a parking space near any of the campuses in the daytime, which means that you’ll be leaving your car on your driveway or street and taking the bus. When picking a suburban or rural house for a student with a car, you still need to think about bus routes. Thankfully Gloucestershire has excellent suburban bus services, and, depending where you pick, some good rural routes too.

    In suburbia, ideally you want a house that is a short walk from the 94U bus service that circles around the Cheltenham campuses and pops to and from Oxstalls campus in Gloucester. It stops at several suburban locations on the western edge of Cheltenham and the eastern edge of Gloucester, but note that it does not stop on the A40 Golden Valley Bypass. In Cheltenham there are two good suburbs for the 94U; The Readings, and the area around GCHQ (southern end of Princess Elizabeth Way; this used to be a dodgy area but is pretty much cleaned up now). In Gloucester, the suburbs convenient for the 94U are Longlevens and Oxstalls.

    There are *lots* of other bus services which connect with the 94U. The vast majority around Cheltenham and Gloucester run 3-4 times an hour. However, due to the connection/change times, this will be a lot slower than just jumping on the 94U. If your lectures are mostly at FCH rather than Park, then the C service (every 15 mins) will drop you just a 2 min walk away on Lower High Street, ditto the 41 and 42 bus services which go all the way to Tewkesbury every 10 mins or so (41 goes past the abbey, 42 doesn’t). It is entirely practical to live in Tewkesbury, which is very cheap for housing and is very car-friendly, and commute by bus to FCH.

    As a student you are entitled to buy a Unirider weekly or monthly bus pass, which gives you unlimited travel on all Stagecoach services in Gloucestershire, Wiltshire and a few other surrounding areas (generally south-westwards; not Worcestershire). In Sept 2014, a Unirider pass costs £10/week or £36/month, which is pretty much half the price that locals pay.

    For evening socialising, note that most on-street parking restrictions end at 6pm (there are a few places where it’s 8pm, so pay attention to the signs). So you can quite easily take your car into town for evening socialising. Obviously Gloucestershire police, being a predominantly rural force, are quite proactive on the whole drink-driving thing, plus it’s a monumentally dumb thing to do, but as far as I can tell, students can’t afford to drink booze in quite the quantities they did when I was there, so it may be irrelevant.

  2. Dr Moose says:

    And I have to add that this is not an unrepresentative picture of most town universities. Here in Northampton there’s free inter-campus bus travel on two routes, and reduced fares for students outside the free fare zone. Parking, likewise is tight, although maybe not as tight as Cheltenham, and while on campus parking is available you aren’t guaranteed a permit as a hall resident, and even if you can get one to allow access to placements it’s issued on a term by term basis. Of course, if you live within a mile and half, and we know all the post codes, you won’t be eligible either! And it all kicks off this weekend! Bring it on!

  3. Matt Savory says:

    Good info Chris. I can tell you that all campus parking enforcement has gone digital this year meaning that they won’t miss anything. Also, for the moment, there are plenty of university parking permits left which can be perchased online – however students living in halls MAY NOT purchase them as the council and the uni are working together to keep vehicle numbers down. In other words, as C.J explained, please don’t bring your car if you’re a first year. Cheers. Matt (UOG Security)

  4. andrewoakley says:

    £50 for a full year student parking permit? That’s peanuts considering the cost of running a car. Bear in mind that car insurance alone for an under-21 is likely to be in the region of 50-100 pounds every *month*. This kind of makes a mockery of the university’s anti-car policy. Unless they are selling large numbers of permits for small numbers of spaces, which beyond a certain degree would be illegal (there are established limits for doing this, c.f. airline seats).

    • Chris Jensen Romer says:

      Oh to park on site! WordPress did not tell me Matt had commented again. Yes agreed £50 not much but they have very limited numbers and you used to have to meet other criteria (ie. Be non Cheltenham resident – Tewkesbury was fine – or disabled).

  5. Chris Jensen Romer says:

    It’s not £50 for a Student Permit: it’s £50 for a residents permit. Those were issued to households on vehicles registered at that address only on August 1st. They are now sold out (as of August 3rd).

  6. Superb Simon says:

    As a resident of St Pauls, and in an area with over 70% student houses, I obviously welcome the parking scheme as it also stops the commuter who parked all day whilst working in town.
    2 permits per house is a reasonable number, and students can also apply if they have the right paperwork 😉

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