Eltham Controlled Parking Zones finally announced

Late in the day on the 23rd December, Greenwich Council finally decided to introduce new Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) around Eltham. The decision marks the end of a two year long process which, despite several consultations, has left many residents feeling that their voices have not been heard.

Before considering the reasons for the unhappiness of many residents, I would like to restate the point I first made in my October blog that the introduction of any CPZs is a matter for local residents. That is my opinion despite rumours being spread about me to the contrary. I originally championed the ‎section of the Council’s policy which makes clear that any road should approve a CPZ before it is introduced and the zones should not be forced on residents who do not want them. Likewise it should be introduced if residents genuinely want it.

Before looking at the outcomes of the consultations, I think it is worth considering two external factors which may well have had an impact on the Council’s decision making process and the council’s incentive to get the result it wanted.

1. Less revenue than desired from parking across the borough. This was highlighted in the Cabinet report on the Medium Term Financial Strategy this month, where the report states of the lower than expected revenue this will be addressed through the continued rollout of the parking strategy (e.g. parking by phone, permits)” (6.5.2.3). So the Council needs an extra £2.1m from car parking to be on budget next year – in my opinion, this fact may well have had an impact on the decision making here.

2. The regeneration of Eltham High Street. The Conservative Mayor of London’s multi-million pound refurbishment of Eltham High Street has provided an opportunity for the Council to substantially reduce the number of spaces on the High Street itself and introduce payment for the currently free places. The consultants employed by the Council to develop the scheme pointed to the new CPZs as alternative parking spaces for people planning on using the High Street stating on their boards:

The considered proposals include a reduction of short term pay and display parking on the High Street from 59 to 21 spaces. These would be compensated with much greater number of shopper parking spaces in close proximity. New CPZ plans will free some 200 spaces,160 of which are within a 3 minute walk to the High Street.”

Eltham_town_centre_scheme_exhibition_board_5___materials_trees_and_road_changes (1)

In my opinion, this meant that parking meters are likely to be part of the CPZs closest to Eltham (making it harder for residents to park which seems to be the complete opposite to the intention of the scheme).

Given these external factors, whatever the views of residents, the Council had a clear motive for introducing the CPZs – which would prove a problem to the council if residents did not vote for parking restrictions in their roads.

So what were the outcomes of the consultations on the CPZs?

In the initial consultation in December 2013, two parts of Eltham North Ward were consulted, broadly within the Progress Estate and Eltham Park areas. In the Progress Estate the outcomes were clear, with roads either overwhelmingly for the CPZ or against. The sections of Well Hall Road and Admiral Seymour Road south of the A2 were firmly in favour of parking restrictions, while those roads north of the A2 were firmly against – these were clear and unambiguous votes as can be seen below.

Street Name Number of properties Yes (would like to be in new CPZ) Maybe (No to CPZ but yes if neighbouring street is included) No (do not want to be part of CPZ under any circumstances) % response
Moira Road 62 4 1 10 24.2
Prince Rupert Road (NE of Congreve) 43 0 0 14 32.6
Congreve Road 27 2 3 8 48.1
Prince Rupert Road (SW of Congreve) 6 3 1 0 66.7
Well Hall Road (N of Prince Rupert) 40 11 1 3 37.5

In these cases, it is quite plain to see which roads want a CPZ and which do not – as a result introducing it in the relevant sections of Prince Rupert and Well Hall Roads can be seen as democratic and responsive to the wishes of residents (which I fully support).

The first round responses in the Eltham Park area of the ward was less clear as the structure of the questions gave rise to confusion. The key questions were 3 and 4 (shown below).

CPZ questions

This meant people might answer NO to question 3 (I don’t want a CPZ) but YES to question 4 meaning they might want one if neighbouring roads wanted on. This NO/YES category was effectively a ‘Maybe’ which left some doubt over which roads wanted the CPZ and which ones did not.

However, following the consultation, across the whole of Eltham Park, Council Officers identified only four roads (or sections of roads) which supported the introduction of CPZs and these were:

Street Name Number of properties Yes (would like to be in new CPZ) Maybe (No to CPZ but yes if neighbouring street is included) No (do not want to be part of CPZ under any circumstances) % response
Glenlea Road 28 17 0 1 64.3
Glenlyon Road 49 7 11 12 61.2
Glenshiel Road 36 9 7 6 61.1
Westmount Road (between Gourock and Glenlea Roads) 47 15 4 3 46.8

The clearest consent for CPZ here is Glenlea, which comes as no shock as these residents had raised on numerous occasions their support for an extension of the existing CPZ along their road. Which seemed both sensible and justified because of the level of parking for the station each day. It is worth noting that many residents of Glenlea who I spoke to over the years felt that the parking restrictions only needed to be on their side of the road, to allow commuters and local residents to continue to park opposite them. Similarly, the section of Westmount Road which was included seems to have clear support for the CPZ.

The situation was more complex with Glenlyon and Glenshiel as in both cases, the majority of people actually said no to the CPZ. However, the ‘maybe’ category was the balance in both roads, with many people subsequently saying that if a CPZ was introduced in a neighbouring road, they would quite like it in their one too. While this was a concern, I was reassured by Officers that a second consultation would take place to clarify the precise views of residents on a specific scheme.

It is again worth noting that every other road consulted in Eltham Park voted against the introduction of a CPZ with a clear majority or with no other neighbouring road wanting a CPZ (meaning there was no support).

So at the end of the first stage of the consultation, Officers appeared to conclude that there was a relatively clear picture for Eltham Park, with only four roads wanting the CPZ to be introduced (with varying degrees of enthusiasm).

A second consultation

The second consultation took place in January 2015 (after the Council elections removed my two Conservative colleagues as Councillors and replaced them with two Labour ones).

In this case, the consultation was on the specific proposals to introduce a CPZ to the four roads in Eltham Park (plus the Progress Estate one, where support remained consistent). Interestingly here, the number of responses to the consultation was much lower in the four roads where a CPZ was proposed:

Street Name

Number of properties

Are you happy with the proposals for your street to be in the CPZ?

Are you not happy with the proposals for your street?

Would you prefer no CPZ on your street?

% response

Glenlea Road

28

13

3

0

57

Glenlyon Road

49

6

10

10

33

Glenshiel Road

36

7

6

6

36

Westmount Road (between Gourock and Glenlea Roads)

47

11

4

2

36

So in this case, Glenlyon Road voted convincingly for no controls at all and the picture for Glenshiel is much tighter than it would otherwise have been. However to give the council the benefit of the doubt I think a CPZ covering these three roads could still be easily justified based on the above results.

At the same time as the second consultation individual residents decided to collect a petition (gathered from other roads who had already voted against) asking for them to be included in the CPZ. Please note these were not proper responses to the consultation, but instead a petition collected with a specific policy interest in mind led by certain residents. The Council, surprisingly in my opinion, decided to include these signatures as responses to the consultation, however, when a counter petition (opposing the CPZ) was collected with what appeared to me to have many of the same names on it- the Council decided that the counter-petition was too late to be counted and so it was not included in subsequent reports on the issue.

As a result of this petition, the results for roads which had previously voted against a petition became:

Petition response

 

This completely changed the outcome of the consultation by including responses collected not using the Council’s forms and ignoring one side of the argument. I have personally never see this happen before in my ten years on the council.

Making a decision

My misgivings over whether the petition could be included as a valid response to the consultation were clearly shared by Officers who at the start of the summer briefed me (together with the Cabinet Member and another Eltham North Councillor) about their proposals to go ahead with the original plan for introducing a CPZ only for the four roads (Glenlea, Glenshiel, Glenlyon and Westmount) who had indicated an initial preference for it at the beginning but not from the subsequent consultation with the petition added in. Because this ignored the subsequent consultation where a clear majority indicated an objection to the CPZ in Glenlyon, to off set any concerns and for those people who had signed the petition, there was an offer of a review of the CPZ’s functioning after six months so others could be included if they so wished.

Given that parking causes so much disagreement and argument within communities (as I knew it had within the Eltham Park Residents Association) I thought it was essential to rely on the views of the non-political Officers and to accept their recommendations. We discussed this at the meeting and I thought all agreed that this was the right way forward, however then it all went quiet. Literally nothing happened until eventually I wrote a blog about whether the whole scheme had been put on hold at the start of August. Suddenly and without any attempt to meet with me to discuss why the whole scheme had changed from the previous briefing, the Council announced plans for a CPZ covering the whole of Eltham Park south of Glenlea Road whether residents wanted it or not.

There was simply no attempt to explain why the sudden change had taken place, but I understand that political intervention over ruled the Officers’ judgement on the right proposals to make. In itself I think this undermines the whole process, but I was aware that there was a final stage before the CPZs were introduced where residents could respond to the Traffic Orders. After some chasing Officers finally informed me that this started at the beginning of October with responses only accepted via the post and advertised on lampposts across the areas.

Responding to the Traffic Orders required a lot more effort and organisation than any of the other consultations (including paying for postage and writing a letter) however, 14 people took the time to comment. Interestingly the Council seemed happy to reduce this to 13 in the report, but I have counted it twice and it is definitely 14 people at different addresses responding. As everyone who responded objected to the proposals, it may have been that the Council thought it best to downplay the whole issue, but effectively they brushed aside all of the concerns, including those from the Eltham Park South Cafe about the potential impact on their business. I wrote in requesting a tweak to the times to help the cafe over the winter and a proper review in six months, but as with other residents, my concerns were brushed aside. Labour and the Council are pushing ahead with their plans regardless of legitimate concerns.

Conclusions

It seems to me that the clear focus of any CPZ is to address the concerns of local residents and I am genuinely concerned that these proposals (which are likely to be introduced at the start of the New Year) fail that test. The Council have consulted, failed to establish clearly what residents want and then gone ahead with a set of proposals which Officers did not feel were appropriate when they briefed me in the summer. I am genuinely pleased to see more local democracy structures being introduced in Greenwich (like ward budgets or area based committees with decision making powers – something we have been pushing for over a long period) but for local democracy to truly work it requires you to listen to people on the ground.

While the Council breaks its own rules, ignores residents’ wishes and pushes a political agenda, we, as residents, will all suffer the effects of living in a single party state.