Coach parking enigma
I have very fond memories of Bletchley Park, the former home of the UK’s codebreakers, having attended the 70th anniversary celebrations for the Bedford OB which culminated there in 2009.
On that day the grounds were filled with over 30 Bedford OBs and a good many other preserved vehicles, which took it in turn to be photographed outside the Hall.
It was an afternoon in which the highlight for me was a low level flypast by the Battle of Britain Flight’s Avro Lancaster bomber.
The site is run by the Bletchley Park Trust, Registered Charity number 1012743, whose mission, according to their website, ‘is to preserve and develop Bletchley Park as a world-class museum, heritage site and education centre in order to enhance the understanding of the critical contribution of Codebreaking and intelligence in World War Two, the birth of computing and electronic security, and how these unique achievements remain relevant today.’
I was therefore somewhat disappointed to get a call from Steve Golynia of Felix Coaches of Long Melford this week bemoaning the lack of coach parking facilities at the site which last month received a Royal visit from HRH The Duchess of Cambridge and has recently benefited from £8m of Lottery funding.
He enquired about parking as he has three trips booked to visit in the coming months and was told that not only was there no coach parking on site, the nearest available parking was eight miles away in the centre of Milton Keynes! The only other alternative offered was even more unacceptable as it was eleven miles away. ‘I’m not asking for much’ he said, ‘just a toilet and somewhere to put the coach.’
I understand there are two coach bays but they can only be used for dropping off and picking up and are strictly policed; you can’t take your 45 minutes break in one of them.
I checked it out with Media Manager, Katherine Lynch, and Steve is right, there isn’t any room for coaches with the Park’s new layout. She imagined this was quite common with heritage sites and she didn’t think there were any plans to change it. Their Director of Operations and Communication had penned a stock response to the question which Katherine sent me. It was rather long for this blog but, minus the promotional plug it said:
‘Bletchley Park has entered an exciting stage as we continue striving to secure our long-term future, and to preserve the memory of those who worked here during World War 2. Unfortunately with all the work that has been carried out as part of our restoration project there is not the space on-site to provide coach parking. We are not alone in this; many heritage sites and visitor attractions are not able to provide on-site coach parking. This is noted on our website, and people making group bookings are also advised when making their enquiries.’
‘However, we do provide details of the location of local coach parking facilities both in advance and also at the time of the visit, if necessary. We are also working with community partners to find further solutions to coach parking that benefits all concerned.’
‘We hope that the investment in the transformation of Bletchley Park into a top Heritage site will continue to allow us to develop and help us improve facilities to meet the need of our visitors. Meanwhile we hope our visitors will enjoy the improvements already in place in both our exhibitions and facilities.’
Surely adequate coach parking facilities should be a prerequisite for any attraction to receive such a large amount of lottery funding, if not to qualify as a Registered Charity at all. At best it shows poor commercial judgement on the part of the Bletchley Park Trust who should be doing all they can to encourage visits by coach and yes, if you want to attract coaches you need somewhere for them to park on site or very near by.
By Stuart Jones