Tuesday, 6 January 2009

Parking - the Burning Issue

Last Sunday I described the current Residents' Parking Scheme as divisive in that opposing views within communities were becoming polarised with competing websites and leafleting, but I hadn't realised quite how far things have already deteriorated. At last night's Council 'call-in' meeting one of the pro-RPS campaigners reported that serious threats have been made via email, specifically to set fire to her car and house.

The email said "hope you have a fire proof letterbox" and warned her she also faced having excrement posted through her door. The recipient, criminal lawyer Suzanne Gardner, said "I had an e-mail from what turned out to be a fake name, saying our car might be burned, and that this person and several others wanted to come to set fire to our house, so they hope we have a fireproof letter box".

All this in relatively well-heeled Cliftonwood. What will happen when RPS is rolled out into less middle class areas where people are less inclined to vent their anger through such literary media as emails? I think this underlines the point I made in my previous post - that we urgently need to develop a less confrontational way of progressing the Controlled Parking Zones that are essential to cope the excess of demand over supply when it comes to inner city parking spaces.

My suggestion remains that people should have the choice of opting in or out on an individual household basis. This would do much to reduce, although not entirely eliminate, the sense of RPS being imposed on unwilling residents. Anyone who didn't like it would simply remain out of the RPS scheme and continue to compete for those parking spaces that remained uncontrolled, which would be whatever was left over after enough spaces had been brought within the RPS to meet the basic (one car per household?) needs of those who have opted in.

Of course in practice everyone would realise, sooner or later, that opting in to RPS is hugely advantageous and the cost, at least the £30 for the first car, purely nominal. Even a household with 2 cars will only pay £55 per car which is a tiny fraction of the value of such parking spaces. So the net effect will be that RPS will be accepted more readily in the first place and spread more rapidly, but on an entirely voluntary basis.

One critic of my proposal said that it would result in more motorists cruising around looking for the remaining uncontrolled spaces, which is true if there were significant numbers of uncontrolled spaces remaining . But I believe that in practice virtually everyone would opt in once they saw the disastrous consequences of remaining out of RPS, so there would be few if any uncontrolled spaces. The more rapid spread of RPS beyond the pilot areas would result in less 'cruising' for parking spaces overall.

Pics - Pavement parking courtesy of Ambra Vale residents.


Anonymous said...

You are proposing a guaranteed parking space for those who opt in. No RPS will ever do that.

"...those parking spaces that remained uncontrolled, which would be whatever was left over after enough spaces had been brought within the RPS to meet the basic (one car per household?) needs of those who have opted in."

Chris Hutt said...

No, the provision of controlled spaces could be in proportion to the proportion of households opting in, compared to an all-or-nothing RPS.

Suppose we have an area with 1000 households and 1000 on-street parking spaces. If every household took up the option of having a permit for one car then we would need all those 1000 spaces to meet the demand.

But if only 500 households take up the option of buying a permit then we would only need to control access to 500 of those spaces. The principles are little different to those that would apply in the RPS as proposed.

The main difference is that nobody is forced to become part of the RPS if they don't want to, which should overcome much of the resentment and hostility that the current 'compulsory' proposals engender.

Anonymous said...

No surprise which side is the one resorting to abuse and threat.

My feeling is that we will see increasing amounts of social conflict at all levels as society is forced, kicking and screaming, to address the socio-ecological issues that people have been so determined to ignore for the last 30 years or more, while the problems build up higher and higher and become more deeply entrenched.

woodsy said...


The process you fear started (if anywhere) with the repeal of ththe Red Flag Act and the growth in car ownership has been fuelled (no pun intended) by the relaxing of credit facilities by every post-WWII Conservative government and Thatcher's crowing about the 'great car-owning democracy' when opening the final missing piece of the M25 London orbital car park.

I do not think car ownership is democratic; car ownership imposes burdens on those who eschew it. The space required for these multiple occupancy invalid carriages has grabbed far too much space in towns and cities and causes huge disruption in terms of noise, pollution and carnage.

green tomato said...

Chris I love the idea of taking the much espoused democratic principle on RPS down to the household level. Very clever, it neatly exposes the ridiculousness of the idea that one set of streets can choose to do it in isolation. The real reason it needs to be this way because it can only be achieved politically by such an approach.
I agree that this is shaping up as a very interesting and important conflict.
People have bought and used cars increasingly over the last 100 years because it has been an easy and cheap way to get around, allowing distance to be seen as a drive, not a problem...we are seeing an inevitable forced reversal of that trend, and it might be ugly at times. Those of us in favour of restricting car use (I am looking forward to hearing the first politician to say 'yes, I'm anticar!)need to keep portraying the positive benefits, ie freedom to walk and cycle around the streets easily, and give a vision how much better the future could be with less cars. That will ultimately be more persuasive than details.

Chris Hutt said...

My thinking is that we have become enslaved to the car as a result of a long, incremental process (individuals becoming car owners) rather than a single political decision (although repealing the Red Flag Act comes close). This has allowed profound changes to take place without the matter ever having been subject to a democratic test like a referendum.

So to reverse the process we need to employ the same tactics - allowing people to make lots of small individual decisions (like buying into RPS) which in total amount to a profound change in the opposite direction. People will vote with their feet for something that they won't vote for in a referendum.