Westminster City Council is set to abolish free parking on single yellow lines and in bays in the West End between 6.30pm and midnight from Monday to Saturday and 1pm and 6pm on Sundays. The Council advises that this decision has been made in order to ease congestion in W1.
I am aware that these planned parking restrictions are causing an enormous amount of anxiety amongst constituents.
I have received letters and emails from residents and businesspeople alike who have expressed concern about women’s safety; the difficulty for friends and family in visiting homes in the West End; the cost of parking to low-paid employees in the hospitality industry; the disincentive for shoppers; the impact on church congregations; and the overall effect the changes could have on the spirit of the West End.
Any decisions on parking are made by Westminster City Council and do not, therefore, come within my influence as a Member of Parliament and it would be improper for me to interfere with its decisions. Instead it is local councillors who are elected to influence the decision process and any pressure is best applied through that route.
Nevertheless, I am always happy to act as a conduit for constituents’ concerns, especially on matters that cause particular anxiety. As such, I have made a number of representations on the planned changes to the Council.
Westminster City Council appears to be sticking to its position on parking in spite of public opposition from the Mayor of London and the Communities Secretary, Eric Pickles, who wish to see the plans abandoned. In view of the high profile media campaign that is being run, it would be safe to assume that the policy may yet be reviewed.
For completeness, I paste below the reply I received from the Council following my representations.
Thanks very much for getting in touch on this.
On your specific points –
Why the Council is taking this decision
The Council has spent the last year undertaking a parking policy review – the first a decade – which seeks to ensure that all of our policies are still appropriate to what is happening on the street today (and going forward) and making any changes as appropriate. The Council has spent a significant amount of time trying to put together an evidence base so that we can take the decision based on reality rather than supposition. This has included an occupancy survey of parking spaces across the city, traffic counts on key roads in the city, analysis of demographic data over the last ten years and an open-ended public questionnaire (where we received over 900 responses).
The occupancy survey and traffic counts have highlighted a particular issue with the very centre of the City – broadly, that there are more vehicles seeking to enter and use the city’s roads outside of controlled hours than during the periods of controls. The whole point of controls is to ensure the city’s streets are adequately regulated during periods of heavy traffic and the Council has a legal duty to ensure that this is the case.
The number of cars parked in this area (zones E, F and G) is 21% higher of an evening than a weekday daytime. Similarly, 61% of the 30 West End streets surveyed in the traffic count survey have evening rather than daytime rush hours. Regarding Sundays, the issue is particularly notable. There are 54% more cars parked in the central area on a Sunday than during the week. The proposals brought forward have the support of several (although not all) of residents associations – including the Marylebone Association and Fitzrovia Neighourhood Association. The chairman of a Mayfair residents association also supports the proposals in a personal capacity, although that group hasn’t taken a formal view on them.
What consultation there has been
• What has the Council done over the last few months?
Firstly a questionnaire on what people think of Westminster’s parking in general (Nov 2010 – Jan 2011) – over 900 responses
Secondly on specific proposals (May – Jun 2011) – over 800 responses o A survey of parking occupancy across the City (Feb – May 2011)
o Surveys of the amount of traffic on more than 30 roads across the borough o Analysis of demographic data (TfL, population trends etc.) It is worth noting that the second consultation that has just closed was entirely non-statutory – we chose to do it and chose to delay making a decision on these proposals to obtain further views from the community.
• How has the process been publicly overseen?
o Cabinet: approval was received from Cabinet to go out to consult on the eight proposals on 9 May in open session
o P&S: specific agenda items on the last two of Alan’s P&S (8 March and 29 June). The policy review was also discussed at the 14 September and 7 December meetings too.
o Taskgroup: P&S agreed the creation of a specific Parking Taskgroup in Summer 2010. Since then it has met 7 times (21st July, 6th Sep, 30th Sep, 3rd Nov, 26th January, 30th March, 4th May) and discussed the policy review on all occasions. The taskgroup also helped to design the initial questionnaire.
o Experts: Nick Lester, the parking expert at London Councils has provided strategic advice and views through the task group on the approach to the review The Leader of the Opposition has also expressed support for the proposals (and specifically endorsed not giving exemptions to churches) at a committee in May. He now seems to be rowing back from that position.
• How has the Council tried to involve/listen to the views of others on the review?
o 40,000+ residents sent an e-mail on two separate occasions inviting comments and views
o 450 businesses sent an e-mail on two separate occasions inviting comments and views
o 986 key stakeholders sent an e-mail on two separate occasions inviting comments and views
o 2,500 hard copies of questionnaire placed in Westminster’s libraries and one stops
o Information placed on NHS Westminster and Westminster police intranet
o Hard-copy questionnaires given to Neighbourcare to distribute around community o Workshops at both the Winter and Spring rounds of Area Forums (total 12 meetings)
o Three e-mails to the Westminster Faith Exchange (300 recipients)
o All materials on Westminster’s website
o Westminster Amenity Society Forum meeting
o 3 meetings with church representatives
o Three discussions at the Road User Forum
o Parking Summit attended by over 50 representatives of businesses, visitors and residents
o Double-page spread in the April edition of the Westminster Reporter which went through every resident’s letterbox in the city
o Mentions in the Evening Standard, LBC, BBC London Radio, BBC London News, ITV London News, trade press, local newspapers etc.
How the Council has respond to objections expressed by the Church
I’ve held numerous meetings with church groups since they became engaged in June on this issue. This has included accepting a public invitation to address a public meeting of over 300 people to listen their concerns, meeting Churches Together and also hold separate meetings with groups like the Salvation Army where requested. The Council must have due regard to its legal duties in this area and must also ensure that policy is created based on what the law says it can be (ie traffic management).
We understand and very much value the incredibly important work that all churches in the Westminster do. We must, however, work within the law and so it is right that officers make proposals based on a traffic management rationale.
Should the proposals be adopted, the Council is happy to investigate whether any mitigations could be put in place, in so far as we are permitted to within the law. Whether any changes have been made as a result of those concerns The same point as outlined in 3 is relevant here too – the Council has a legal duty to consider traffic management on this issue. It is important to note that the Council’s proposals are very specific in targeting the perceived problem and no more. That is why the proposal affect only 2.5 out of 8 parking zones in Westminster. It is also why controls are proposed to begin at 12 on a Sunday, rather than the 8.30am commencement on other days.
Where things will go from here
The current view – to be confirmed by officers – is that any proposals agreed would be implemented via Experimental Traffic Orders which would provide leeway to make changes if a particular problem did arise. A view would then be made within 18 months on whether the orders would be made permanent. We have made it clear that we are happy to continue to talk with those who remain concerned to see how we might be able to mitigate any perceived issues. That isn’t to suggest that we could definitely introduce mitigations, but we would be happy to explore such if there is a real issue which is noted.
I hope this is helpful in explaining the Council’s position.
Lee Rowley, Cabinet Member for Parking