A sacrifice on the altar

Communities Minister Eric Pickles

The Thugs’ Best Friend

I had to spend a lot of time in Brighton over the autumn, winter and spring.  Just a few minutes walk from George Street in Hove, a satellite-town-centre shopping street.  George Street has long been pedestrianised during shopping hours, making it a pleasant place to go for one’s shopping, or for a refreshment at one of its many pubs or cafés.  The only fly in the ointment was that on Sundays it was open to cars, turning it from a pleasant place to a stressful no-go area.

This winter was different.  I went there several times during regular weekday shopping hours, only to find it infested by cars.  After a little while I learned to treat it as a no-go area at all times.  A sad loss: there’s no comparable shopping street for some distance.  I don’t know why such a street has been sacrificed.  The local council is run by the Green Party: perhaps they’re as false to their roots as all the rest, but even so this seems extraordinary.

Today’s news: our towns are yet again to be sacrificed on the altar of the Great God motorcar.  This time it’s parking, and no matter how much commonsense and/or the law want to save an area for people, councils are to be deprived of the practical means to enforce anything.  Of course the propagandists wheeled out several motorists with legitimate-sounding horror stories of having been fined unreasonably, yet none of those were caught by the enforcement systems they’re banning!

The thugs’ best friend has struck another blow against humanity, and no doubt driven another nail into the coffin of many a town centre.

Posted on June 21, 2014, in environment, politics, uk. Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. It’s astonishing that the ‘party of law and order’ should allow the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government to promote a policy that encourages law-breaking by a certain section of the public. Mind you, Governments have form on this – they’ve already let the bankers off after they robbed savers and taxpayers of billions of pounds. Presumably laws apply only to ordinary taxpayers and ‘benefit cheats’!

    My local town centre seems to have found a reasonably sensible compromise when it comes to parking. There is ample free, short-term roadside parking for those occasions when one might need to pick up a heavy or awkward load from the shops, although one might have to walk a few yards. And there is a selection of paying car parks for those who wish to leave their cars in town for longer. The one-way main street has some gentle traffic calming that allows pedestrians to cross the road in comparative safety without inconveniencing drivers, and makes both categories of user aware that this is a shared space. However, we are not without our bad parking problems…

    Having read the news on this latest idiotic policy yesterday, I walked into town to find numerous cars illegally parked on double yellow lines (which are there to protect sight lines on junctions and prevent hold ups in our narrow Victorian streets). The worst example was two cars parked on the double yellow lines on either side of a narrow one way street (one partially propped up on the very narrow pavement, forcing pedestrians into the road and certainly providing insufficient room for the mighty Mr Pickles to ease past – that is assuming he ever walks anywhere, which judging by his stature I doubt he does!). A motorist who was, quite legitimately, trying to drive up the road was forced to perform a dangerous chicane, coming within an inch or so of each illegally parked vehicle and scraping her wheels against the granite pavement edge in the process (so it’s not only pedestrians who suffer at the hands of idle and selfish parkers).

    As a car driver and pedestrian, I do my best to obey the law and not to abuse parking restrictions that are there for good reason. My solution – put UP the fines for illegal parkers and use the money to improve the street environment for all.

    Oh, and can someone put a wheel clamp over the mouth of that obnoxious clown Pickles… and by the way, whatever happened to ‘localism’ whereby local councils and communities are supposed to be the decision makers on local issues such as this?

  2. John, can’t entirely agree about your town centre. Duke Street/Brook Street have pavements far too narrow to accommodate shopping crowds, and should be widened As it stands, people who want to go anywhere rather than stand around are routinely forced out into the road for (for example) the entire distance from Paddons Row to Somerfield/Coop. Car parking should be limited to a few spaces for the disabled, with others using other space, or outside main shopping hours. And a lesser but related problem of getting hugely splashed any time the road is wet: again, a wider pavement would help.

    The town-centre end of West Street presents another variant of the problem. Again, the pavement is too narrow, and routinely blocked. Furthermore, it’s often not possible to anticipate a blockage (e.g. emerging from a shop). And it’s lined with parked cars, so one can’t just step out into the street. I usually find myself walking that one outside the row of parked cars, simply because experience says I’m more likely than not to find myself boxed in if I use the pavement. Again, it needs a wider pavement, and parking on one side only.

    Bottom line: can’t enjoy or relax in the main shopping streets. Just have to put the head down and hasten on to my destination. Not much use for the kind of shop one might use occasionally, or on a whim!

  3. Must admit I’ve never been forced onto the roads in Tavistock by the shopping crowds and I do enjoy shopping there. The pavements in Brook Street (where the only parking that’s allowed in the narrow section is for loading, although frequently abused) and Duke Street are significantly wider than they were when I was young and heavy two way traffic went through the entire length of them prior to the construction of the relief road bridge in the 1990s. In those days you really were forced off the pavements into traffic hell. By comparison, the experience today is pedestrian bliss; since the relief road was introduced there is far less motor traffic in the town centre and it travels in one direction only. Agree West Street is a bit if a problem, but once again much better than it used to be since the lower section was made one way. Incidentally, parking is not allowed at all along much of the higher section, but due to inadequate parking enforcement there always seem to be parked cars there. The Pickles approach presumably condones this.

    The fact is, in a rural market town, many shoppers travel by car and they often want to make a quick call at just one or two shops so want convenient parking. I do still think the council have achieved a reasonable balance – not perfect but a whole lot better than it used to be.

    Given the practically unlimited, free and convenient parking offered by the edge of town/out of town retail establishments such as Morrisons and Lidl (and Tesco if and when it opens), I tend to agree with the local independent traders that free, short term roadside parking is necessary if they are to compete on a level playing field.

  4. According to my information, George St is pedestrianised only from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., Mon-Sat, or possibly to 6 p.m., or possibly t’one in Winter and t’other in Summer. If you visited it outside these times, it would have been car-infested.

    When I was last there, it still looked pretty pedestrian as far as I can recall. Looking at brighton-hove.gov.uk, I can’t find any mention of the conditions being changed recently, although maybe I just haven’t tried the right search terms yet.

  5. Can you sacrifice something that was already killed by previous sacrifices?

    Actually, the town centres aren’t quite dead yet, despite the best efforts of developers, but we still can’t get designers to see that town centres will never compete with the edge-of-town retail parks for car parking spaces, so they need to become nicer places to be, emphasising their heritage and diversity compared to the soulless big boxes.

    There’s a couple of “townscape” projects underway in King’s Lynn at the moment. In one (St Margaret’s Quarter), the car parking is being retained slap bang in the middle of a conservation area (Saturday Market Place) between at least three historic buildings and no shops. We’ve pretty much lost that fight – only 10 car spaces fewer, some wider pavements and that’s all people seem to be getting back, despite two large underused car parks within easy walking distance (Church Street and Boal Street) and a huge showpiece multistorey a little further away (St James).

    In the other (Transport Interchange), they’ve just proposed new short-stay drop-off parking bays where passenger doors will be flung open into a shared walking/cycling path. At best, they’ve not thought that one through properly! Oh and the shared path will be gravel… in a town centre??? That consultation remains open, details at http://www.cyclescape.org/threads/1399 if you feel so moved.

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