If you live in Islington and especially if you drive a car, you are probably aware that the Council is tinkering with the parking regulations introducing measures that will encourage car use. This will increase congestion, road danger and air pollution and risks reducing the reliability of buses. You have until 11th February to let the Council know how you feel about it. See StoptheRoamer for details of how to respond and read on to find out why you should.
The Islington Parking Policy encourages modal shift to active travel modes and public transport which supports the majority of residents who have no access to a car. It is designed specifically for the Islington context, where “There is simply not enough road space to safely and efficiently accommodate everyone who wishes to park or drive in Islington today or in the future.” This means “that the council must make complex choices about the allocation and management of on-street parking space. In making these choices, the council has to balance the needs of some groups with others, or to take actions that some motorists do not support. The council aims to make things better for the majority of people whilst minimising inconvenience to others.” All very sensible - not anti-car but realistic about the impact of cars in a densely populated inner city borough and until recently fully supported by the Council.
Last year I contributed to a Sustainability Review Council Scrutiny on parking and implementation of parking policy as Chair of Islington Living Streets. The committee presented a report last March with 18 recommendations for measures to support local traders and make the implementation of parking policy more user friendly. The report was received by the Executive on 16th September 2010.
Rather than get on with implementing the recommendations of the Scrutiny Committee, just one month later on 21st October 2010 another report went to the Executive proposing a raft of new measures designed to encourage short trips by car: "Roamer Parking" allowing permit holders to park anywhere in the borough between 10.00 and 2.00 along with access to "unlimited visitor parking vouchers". Both measures are in direct contradiction to the objectives of the Parking Policy although they are accompanied by an increase in parking permit prices in relation to CO2 emissions, which may in the long term encourage purchase of less polluting cars.
The Scrutiny Committee's list of 18 recommendations made no mention of the need for increased freedom to park or any issue with insufficient allowance of visitor vouchers and I've not found any report explaining where or when the need was identified. Indeed many residents see the Roamer and Voucher schemes as a sweetener to pacify motorists paying more for their permits. Despite minimal information, apart from a letter to permit holders, there was a massive response resulting in the Executive (13th January 2012) introducing changes to the hours of the scheme and allowing a further period for comment for the community (ends 11th Feb).
The reasons for the Roamer and Voucher scheme seem to vary depending on who you talk to. The Council report on 13th January suggests it "is intended to offer residents greater flexibility and freedom when travelling around the borough and to support local shops and businesses", while recognising "that the introduction of the scheme is not in full alignment with the council’s other green policies." If the Council want to support businesses they should upgrade the pedestrian environment, it is foot-fall not tyre-roll that delivers benefits for business (see TfL report "Town Centre Survey" July 2004 making the case for minimising car use to support the local economy).
Intriguingly, the report to the Executive suggests that "the current parking zones prevent the most vulnerable people accessing the borough’s resources." and declares that "The Residents’ Roamer scheme will have a positive effect of improving mobility, independence and dignity to these vulnerable residents. The most vulnerable tend to be BME, older people and the very young." This is sharply contrasted by Council Leader Cllr Catherine West in a recent front page article in the Islington Tribune, where she suggests the scheme is aimed at those keen on using their car to take a great aunt for a capuccino at an Upper St cafe. Cllr West gives the impression that car travel is the only viable option for those with babies, small children and elderly aunts.
I disagree that the scheme is the best way either to help carers to support the vulnerable or to support local businesses. If there is an issue with parking for carers, then that could be addressed with a specifically targeted scheme. On the contrary, Roamer Parking appears to be aimed at the minority of residents who own cars (by definition not those living in poverty), granting them additional flexibility to use cars for local trips adding to the congestion and poor air quality on our streets. The "freedom to roam" the borough by car is only being extended to those in street properties with parking permits, those with cars living on Estates will have no such freedom and I'm not too sure how that squares with Islington Council's Fairness agenda.