Are car clubs part of the solution?
The second round of consultation on parking proposals for the Ward has concluded and we await the results, which will be consulted on further. Here is the text of Richard’s speech on the parking consultation to the recent Council meeting.
“I am in my ninth year as a Councillor.
From day one, parking has been one of the major issues my residents complain to me about.
And it is obvious why – Sutton South Ward is close to the town centre, in the area close to the station there is intense demand for parking so it is rationed by making it a controlled parking zone, then you get to the area just outside the zone.
The example I always give is Mayfield Road which is the first road you come to outside the controlled zone walking east. So this road has bumper to bumper parking every day except Sunday, and the residents get fed up with it and campaign continuously for parking controls.
Over my nine years there have been several surveys of residents’ views on parking controls in Mayfield and neighbouring roads, including in 2016 when the three Ward Councillors – Councillor Shields, Councillor Fivey and myself, working across party lines as we often do – agreed a scheme with the traffic engineers which residents in Mayfield and neighbouring roads were consulted on. That scheme was abandoned as residents in other roads nearby said “What about us?” Fortunately the Parking Strategy Consultation had just been agreed so we were able to abandon the more limited scheme and promise a wider consultation of a wider area. I particularly remember this as the residents of Mayfield Road were not happy at the abandonment of the parking scheme for their road and came to the local committee to protest, where Councillor Shields told them we now intended to undertake a more “holistic” survey of the whole area. I particularly remember this as he used the word “holistic” and the residents looked at each other, seemingly wondering what this word meant.
So we, the Ward Councillors, jointly made a commitment to this consultation.
I think the staged consultation exercise is the best approach. It enables residents to see what is proposed for the wider area around them, based on the opinions of residents in the first round of consultation, and to modify their views accordingly in the second round.
And there will be a third round of consultation. Some residents say to me you are endlessly consulting, when are you going to do something?
The aim is to discover what the prevailing opinion is, and do what residents want.
Of course, whatever the result, even in some roads where there is a strong prevailing opinion, some people will be unhappy.
But that is no reason to hide under the table and not tackle what residents see as an important problem. We should not ignore it.
Now there are some bits of misinformation and distractions put about.
The “an abstention will be a positive vote” story has been adequately discredited. Of course, in Sutton South as a whole most residents are unaffected by these changes but in the roads affected there is a ferment of debate and social media helps spread awareness – every day someone tells me of some new Whatsapp or Facebook page. I cannot keep up.
The cash cow: parking schemes bring enforcement costs which have to be covered, though in fact of the 32 London Boroughs Sutton is one of the cheapest places to park. And we all know that the decision in the 2013 Barnet Council v Attfield case prohibits cross subsidisation of other Council services from parking charges, and as chair of the Audit and Governance Committee I can tell you that the external auditors would come down on us instantly if we breached that. In Sutton South the changes currently out for consultation would not increase revenue but would have costs.
Emissions based charging: I am not very green, we have two cars. The road tax – a charge set by Government – on my petrol driven Nissan is £120 a year. On my hybrid Honda it is £10. A massive difference. So relating charges to vehicle emissions is not an idea invented in the London Borough of Sutton, it is Government policy, a Conservative Government.
From next year the Ultra Low Emissions Zone will mean I will pay to drive my Nissan – but not my Honda – north of the south circular road, and with current public concern over the impact of vehicle emissions on air quality I would wager that the general direction of public policy in the UK in the next few years will be further in this direction, not in the direction of the abolition of such differential charges, which I see is the policy of Sutton Conservatives, but evidently not that of the Conservative party nationally.
Some residents in my Ward ask about the closure of the Brighton Road car park, six years ago. We can draw a distinction between people who are prepared to pay for parking and those not prepared to pay. If the people who park in the roads near Brighton Road were prepared to pay for parking – so might have parked in the Brighton Road car park, demolished six years ago – they could park at the Gibson Road car park, closer to the town centre, ten minutes walk from Brighton Road, which is never full.
The choice for Brighton Road is – is this site better used as the HQ of a major international company, creating 900 jobs in Sutton that would otherwise have been in Epsom, or as a half-empty car park ten minutes walk from another multi-storey car park which is never full.
My simple point on the parking strategy is this, we should consult our residents, and then do what they want us to do. It is not complicated.”