Lewisham Liberal Democrats recognise that street parking is a real problem for many people (including residents in some roads within existing CPZs). Many roads are full of parked cars for large parts of every day.
Vehicles parked on both sides of some streets make it difficult for cars travelling in different directions to even pass each other. This is the current situation and we live in a borough with a rising population.
However recognising a problem exists does not mean the only solution is what Lewisham Council is proposing. We have a number of concerns about the Council’s approach, not least that people should be presented with accurate information before big decisions are made.
We are committed to the principle of informed consent. The Council must obtain the consent of a majority of local residents before implementing a parking zone.
Background: Lewisham’s recent parking policy
Until now Control Parking Zones (CPZs) have largely been used in Lewisham to help manage parking in streets that have become crowded with cars left for many hours by people from outside the area. This was often commuters who jumped on a train after parking their car free of charge in the street for the whole day.
Parking controls around major stations have been accepted (if reluctantly) by a majority of Lewisham residents as a way of deterring this form of park and ride. The Council estimates that about 23% of the borough is covered by a series of CPZs, created largely to address this problem.
Lewisham’s new proposal
The latest proposals from Lewisham Council are very different. For a start they have scrapped the requirement for the majority of local people to be in favour of parking restrictions before a CPZ is created.
The Council argues that because Lewisham has a relatively low number of CPZs it must have more. They say that covering the entire borough with parking zones is following the example of other London boroughs – despite Lewisham being very different from many. Their lazy working assumption is that extending CPZs is the only solution.
The Council’s reasoning is demonstrably wrong
Covering the borough with CPZs confuses the provision of new facilities with claims of excess pressure on street parking. The two are not directly linked.
Lewisham is different from some other boroughs. For example we don’t have a large number of people who travel here to work. On the contrary the majority of Lewisham residents travel out of the borough to work elsewhere.
Equally, we don’t have a lot of people driving into the borough to get on the tube or because it’s just outside the Congestion Zone. Lewisham’s situation is different from the misleading examples cited by the Council (i.e. Camden, Islington and Tower Hamlets).
Just because some boroughs have adopted one approach to parking, it doesn’t follow that Lewisham should too.
The idea that there cannot be more electric charging spaces, bike hangers or bays allocated to car clubs on our roads without a CPZ is clearly wrong. Equally tree planting is not dependent on an area being in a CPZ. Lewisham Council are peddling misleading claims to disguise its poor record on delivering these important improvements.
If new CPZs are required to generate the money to pay for such things, it does beg the question why these facilities are not widespread in existing parking zones. The areas already subject to a CPZ do not currently benefit from more of these features than the other 77% of Lewisham.
The Council claims that a CPZ would allow them to take action against pavement parking. This is completely untrue; parking on London pavements is an offence unless specific exemptions have been granted. They could act now without waiting for a CPZ.
The consultation process is biased and fundamentally flawed
We are concerned about the way this consultation has been structured and the way the case for borough-wide CPZs has been presented. For example it is not clear that it is merely ‘an engagement exercise’ as opposed to a local referendum.
A Council proposal from last December specifically states: “it is recommended that the Parking Policy (2014) be updated so that engagement exercises are recognised as consultations rather than referendums.”
How many people realise this and has the council even explained this important change to Lewisham residents?
The “sustainable streets” survey the Council has made available online does not ask whether the respondent supports the proposal. It merely asks what mode of transport they generally use and whether various changes (e.g. more trees or electric vehicle charging points etc.) will improve the area.
There is no reference at all to introducing parking charges. Instead respondents are invited to say whether “reducing general car parking space” would improve the neighbourhood.
The Council’s own poor track record
It is questionable whether anyone can trust Labour-controlled Lewisham to implement pedestrian improvements. Its track record on this has been extremely poor for many years.
For example the proposed pedestrian improvements in Catford along the South Circular should have been completed last year, but work isn’t even scheduled to start for at least another year and probably much longer. The Council already has the money for this scheme from Barratt’s development of the former dog track. Implementation is not dependent on money from parking fees and fines.
If the Council were committed to reducing car use across the borough it could as a significant employer in the area lead by example. Instead it has just extended its own staff car park behind Laurence House in Catford. It seems the Council is inviting everyone to do as the Council says rather than as the Council does when it comes to car parking.
Real action involving the whole community to deliver real change
If Lewisham Council really wants genuine action we suggest it start by adopting the following approach:
If Labour-run Lewisham Council took these steps we could start a proper debate with all residents about the future of our streets.