Parking has been and remains one of the most popular and controversial processes we deal with as councillors. As we write this post, all the rest of the ward is becoming part of a Residents’ Parking Zone or RPZ. It’s taken a while, and the process can appear a bit convoluted, so we thought a quick recap would be helpful. This blog post aims to walk through the stages that got us to where we are now.
The beginning: after many impassioned requests and much unhappiness, we had a consultation to ask people in the area roughly bounded by Woodgrange Road, Capel Road, Ridley Road, and Sebert Road whether they wanted to have some form of restricted parking on their roads. The answer to this was a clear ‘yes’.
Subsequently, as part of the Council’s budget and various announcements for this current financial year, Newham announced as part of Keep Newham Moving that the whole borough would be subject to some form of residents’ parking zone. So the question then became ‘what hours of operation’ rather than ‘yes or no’.
Something that was difficult, then, was to decide what to do about the area of the ward we hadn’t included in the previous consultation. That is, the part of the ward on the western side of Woodgrange Road, sitting between the restrictions of Waltham Forest, the restrictions of Stratford, and the proposed restrictions in the eastern area of the ward. We met with the parking design team, with Cllr Ken Clarke who is the Cabinet member with responsibility for parking, and discussed it together.
We decided in the end that although it was difficult, it just wouldn’t be fair to exclude this relatively small area at this stage. If we’d moved ahead with restrictions in one area but not another, we would effectively leave the roads west of Woodgrange (Dames Road, Field Road, Essex Street, and more) as a small isolated island of no restrictions. Every vehicle that wanted to park for free would move onto those roads, some of which are amongst the narrowest in the ward. We felt it wouldn’t be right to let those roads become clogged up and to leave them out, so we decided, very slightly with gritted teeth, that it was the right and honest thing to do, to include them now and move on to the next stage.
So the next consultation was about the hours of operation. This is very far from straightforward. For every person who lobbied us strongly saying that problems (commuters, abandoned vehicles, cars for sale, and second vehicles from other RPZs) could be adequately managed by the shortest hours possible, and who felt strongly that we need to help local businesses with as much free parking as possible, there were others that who told us that even longer hours we required: all day every day, and right into the evening (particularly from residents living near Churches).
We also insisted on having a residents’ drop-in session as part of this consultation, at the Gate library one evening. I’d be lying if I said this was the most pleasant evening I’ve ever spent, but I do think it was important to give residents the chance to speak face to face about something that people felt so strongly about. What really struck me about that drop-in was that although the overall ‘noise’ from it was very anti-restrictions, when I made the effort to speak to each person who attended individually and to ask them what their comments and concerns were, most people came along with relatively minor queries or proposed amendments, and the majority of people were in favour overall of restrictions.
The results of that consultation came in, and the majority of people clearly expressed a preference for longer hours of restrictions. We discussed how we could help to make this rather controversial part of the process more transparent, and Seyi is currently working on another blog post to try to publish the responses received and the data in full. We also received a number of detailed suggested changes, and the parking design team spent some time accommodating as many of these as they could, where reasonable and practical.
The next required stage, which needs to happen I believe in order to actually have the power to enforce any restrictions, is the statutory consultation. When we heard about this stage my heart sank somewhat, “Aren’t people going to be very frustrated when we ask them once, ask them about the hours, and then consult with them again?” I asked firstly, and then, “Can’t we combine the statutory consultation with the second consultation to save time?”
Er, no, is the short answer. The reason this is separate is that you have to do the statutory consultation on the final design – in effect there is no opportunity to affect the design (hours, bay lengths, where the double yellows are, anything at all) at the statutory stage. The only opportunity is to accept or to reject entirely. So we were reluctantly persuaded that yes, this final stage was necessary, but probably on balance not as important as the earlier consultations as it asked a question we’d already asked, and didn’t offer a chance for residents to affect the design as the previous consultation did. So this stage went ahead, with a notice in the Newham Recorder, and notices on lampposts.
And now here we are. The lines are going down. The signs are going up. The start date is the 5th December. The hours are 8am – 6.30pm Monday to Saturday.
Some things about the implementation have not been ideal. The letters arrived a day or two later than they should have done. The website wasn’t updated quickly enough with the results of the consultation, the letters advised that we could apply for permits immediately but actually this wasn’t possible for another couple of days after that. Whilst recognising that parking design are a busy department trying to bring in RPZs across the borough, with expanding workloads and a small team (not to mention a slightly thankless job with lots of abuse hurled at them) we’ve felt frustrated by this too, and are taking residents’ feedback on this back to the Council and we are aiming to make things better in future.
But we do honestly really believe that in the end this is going to all be much better. We should see around a 30% reduction in cars parked on our roads. The new double yellow lines around junctions should make our roads safer and reduce scrapings, not to mention reduce some of the angry stand-offs that can come about. It’s likely there will be a period of settling in, and then it should all start to run quite smoothly. Certainly feedback from other areas has been that once the RPZ is in place, things improve dramatically.
If that isn’t the case, we are sure that we will hear about it very quickly! But do let us know how things go, either electronically or in person. All our details are on the contact us page.
In the meantime, that rather mammoth post could perhaps be summarised as ‘parking, where we are now’ and whilst it was a bit more lengthy than anticipated, we hope you found it useful.