Parking in and around Falmouth has been a bone of contention for local residents and students for a number of years, but in recent months the issue has reached a breaking point.
Following last year’s decision by Cornwall Council to expand the student population to 7,500, finding a parking space in Falmouth town centre has become increasingly difficult.
A lack of dedicated parking spaces and driveways has contributed to the problem along with a rise in properties being converted to Houses in Multiple Occupation (HMOs), in order to meet the increased demand for housing.
Residents of ‘HMOs’ may possess a car each, meaning that one house could have five cars on the street.
Tensions between local residents and students in Falmouth have run high for a number of years which has culminated with the hate group ‘Falmouth Hates Students’ vowing to make the town a “no-go zone for students”.
Acts of vandalism on student property in the town have continued to rise, although it remains to be seen if this is linked to the group.
Incidents have included damaging vehicles as I have personally experienced after my car mirror was snapped and the door keyed.
While this may be linked to the principle of students taking up too many parking spaces, there is no proof of a link to ‘Falmouth Hates Students’.
Rhiannon Cole is a third-year History student at the University of Exeter and has had her car damaged multiple times in the last few months.
“The first time, it was parked outside my house and I came out to go to uni and my wing mirror was lying on the road, but it was parked facing the pavement side,” Ms. Cole told Truthfal.
“That happened two more times while I was living at that house, a few times it was bent backwards or it was pulled off and when it was parked somewhere else in summer it got keyed.
“The third thing was that it got spray painted orange down the other side of the car, again just parked outside my house.”
However, such acts of vandalism are not only damaging for the cars but also demoralising for the victims.
“It made me feel quite victimised, quite upset – it made me not want to have my car in Cornwall anymore, I got quite worried about parking my car,” added Ms. Cole.
“I almost have to check it every day now, just to make sure no one has done anything.”
Nonetheless, it is not just student cars which have been damaged as young people around the town have also been targeted in what could be a case of mistaken identity.
One such person is local resident Matthew Bray who parked for just ten minutes of a maximum allowed hour on New Street in Falmouth.
“If it wasn’t for my girlfriend getting in the front passenger seat, I wouldn’t have noticed that my back-left door had been keyed,” Mr. Bray told Truthfal.
“I was rather furious as it didn’t look like an accident – I feel like it was on the assumption that I was a student as I’ve often been asked if I am and people have said I look like one as well.
“I think the locals forget that students bring so much to the little town of Falmouth – with it being a seasonal tourist town, it wouldn’t survive without the students around the rest of the year.”
A spokesperson for Devon and Cornwall Police told Truthfal that residents should park somewhere lit without leaving valuables in view and to report any criminal activity to 101.
The issue centres around the Smithick area which includes a number of parking restriction zones and terraced housing around the heart of Falmouth.
Falmouth Smithick councillor Jayne Kirkham worries that resulting irresponsible parking could block emergency service vehicles on narrow roads.
She said: “The university discourages students from bringing cars and charge for parking on campus which means that people leave their cars in the town.
“There is also very little parking at the Woodlane Campus which leads to people parking on the residential roads in Smithick in the day.
“I have asked Falmouth University if they would provide long stay cheap/free parking on campus, but they will not. The public transport links for the university are good and people could still get to and from there.”
But what can be done to alleviate pressure on the limited streets of Falmouth?
“The only other answer appears to be a residential parking zone in Smithick. When the whole town was consulted about residents’ parking in 2016, the vote was negative across the whole town, although more pro in Smithick,” Cllr Kirkham added.
“Local residents are understandably unhappy about having to pay to park a maximum of two cars outside their house, particularly when spaces near your house are not guaranteed, even if you do pay.
“Again, I asked Falmouth University if they would consider contributing to the cost of setting up such a scheme, but they are again, not keen.”
Falmouth University were contacted for comment but are yet to respond.