If you read this blog regularly you may have a nagging sense of deja vu. For it is undeniably the case that I have blogged about parking before, here and here. But it rumbles on, and continues to be an issue that raises very strong feelings in surprising ways. It will always be, I strongly suspect, an issue that proves the old adage that you can’t please all the people all the time.
We are just beginning a consultation about parking in what I am still resisting referring to as ‘the village‘ area of Forest Gate North. Basically if you imagine a rough rectangle with Capel Road at the top, Tylney Road to the east, Sebert to the south, and Woodgrange Road to the west, that marks out our consultation area. This is as a result of a clamour to me, Ellie and Seyi from residents of various roads in this area, in the form of tweets, emails, letters and petitions, asking variously for something to be done about the volume of cars parked there. Residents told us that their neighbours were putting bins out in the road to reserve spaces, that they were having to park a long distance away from their home. People had spotted vans and commercial vehicles left for long periods and wanted abandoned cars removed. One person complained at seeing someone park up outside their house, whip a folding bike out of the boot, and high-tail off to work.
Many people surmised, as we did, that this was at least partly as a result of the Residents Parking Zone (RPZ) that was created in the Woodgrange Estate relatively recently. It’s hard to tell whether this is because of people living in that RPZ who have more than one vehicle and don’t wish to pay for a second permit, parking their cars further north, or whether it’s because of commuters and businesses outside Forest Gate who used to leave vehicles in the Woodgrange Estate and now leave them up here.
The normal process for an RPZ, under our current policies, is in several stages: firstly are resident requests, which may but don’t have to come through lcoal councillors. These are logged by officers in Parking Design. If we receive enough of these then we will move to a Stage 1 consultation, which is asking residents and businesses from the area whether there is a problem with parking, and whether they want us to take action. If enough responses are received then we move to Stage 2, which is where specific proposals are made, and residents have the opportunity to respond to these.
I have to admit that we have held off slightly before consulting on this particular area. This is for several reasons – firstly because of a consultation on some of the same area last year which was firmly and in some cases rather angrily rejected. Secondly because I live in this area, and whilst this does mean I’ve seen the increase in parked vehicles first hand out of my window, it also makes me nervous of taking action that favours my home patch at all. I am aware of having received some requests (not as many, admittedly) for an RPZ from other areas of the ward, too, and wanted to make sure I wasn’t being unduly influenced by my neighbours. I double checked this with Ellie and Seyi at least once, who assured me that it wasn’t a matter of geography, it was simply one of numbers: the roads currently being consulted on were overwhelmingly asking us for action. We also felt keenly the Gordian knot that is parking – to do nothing means not responding to requests and not using our processes, but if we do move ahead and restrict parking then we inevitably shift some of the problem onto neighbouring areas which doesn’t seem fair either.
I had a discussion with officers, as well, keen to understand if there were other things we could do that aren’t quite an RPZ. The answer here was basically a no – it seems an RPZ is really the only tool available that reduces the quantity of cars parked on a road, typically by 30%. Although you can create other types of restrictions, such as making areas of some roads no parking within certain tightly defined hours to stop people leaving cars there all day, or indeed for weeks at at time, this only works within an area where parking is already restricted. Officers also confirmed our joint impression that although we were receiving requests for an RPZ from various places in the ward, by far the greatest volume of these were coming from the area I described above.
So here we are. Stage 1. Notices have gone up. Packs are going out, and should be with residents by the 29th January. The process is democratic, and whether we go on to stage 2 will depend entirely on what results are achieved. I did also talk to officers about holding some consultation events at this stage, but they told me that holding meetings at this stage is not useful as what people who attend tend to want is detailed information about how and when parking restrictions will work. We do want to hold some drop-in sessions if we get to Stage 2, though we know that our desire to do so might be regarded in some quarters as either touchingly naive or even slightly sadistic!
If (IF!) we go on and have an RPZ, there are some things to be aware of:
– we would be creating a new parking zone, meaning that the hours would be up for grabs, so to speak. There is no need to ‘fall in’ with the hours of an existing zone, so we could have whatever people in the area said they wanted. If you are in favour of an RPZ, but have strong feelings about the hours or days within which it should be operated, please mention this in the ‘any other comments’ section of the consultation form.
– the first permit for households within the zone is free (but there are charges for second and subsequent vehicles).
I hope this long and slightly rambling blog post was helpful in giving some of the background to this consultation. As ever, if you have any more questions or need anything else do drop me, Seyi, or Ellie a line.