Ealing’s Hypocrisy over its Controlled Parking Zones

Ealing Council is the latest London local authority to announce plans to charge residents living in Controlled Parking Zones a sliding scale of permit prices based on CO2 emissions, a move that has provoked outrage across the borough.

The Labour administration, which increased its majority in May’s local elections, approved a new Transport Policy in June which will see most residents permit charges rise, some by as much as 60 per cent. Diesel owners will face an automatic £50 surcharge, while homes where more than one vehicle is registered will also see financial punishment. The Council estimates that its new scheme will raise an extra £700,000 a year on top of an already sizeable surplus from parking schemes.

Ealing Council says the aim is to reduce car usage among residents, a so-called ‘modal shift’ to ‘incentivise residents to use other, more sustainable modes of transport’. However, opponents of the scheme claim it is yet another stealth tax, and one that cannot be defended on environmental grounds since the Council is rolling out ‘shared use’ bays in CPZs across the borough to encourage commuters to drive in and park for just £4.50 a day.

Local resident Simon Hayes organised a petition calling for the Transport Strategy to be withdrawn and the proposed extension of shared use bays to be scrapped. More than 2,800 residents across the borough supported the petition but the demands were rejected by the Council at a meeting on July 24.

“This transport strategy is a total nonsense,” said Mr Hayes. “It is clearly a revenue raising exercise and there are two prongs to the fork they are poking in the eyes of every car owner in an Ealing CPZ. What makes it worse is Labour didn’t even campaign on this policy in May because they knew it would be a vote loser, but are simply imposing it without consultation”.

“The Council is punishing residents because they own a particular type of car which they may not be able to afford to change. We are told not to drive, but the council fails to recognise that most journeys residents make are essential, whether for work or family reasons or simply because alternative modes of transport just aren’t available. Many people in this borough are getting by and can ill-afford another financial burden.”

“But then the Council is actively encouraging non-residents to park in CPZs for just £4.50 a day. That’s almost the amount it costs to park for one hour in many of the borough’s car parks, so clearly it’s inadequate.”

“There will be no regulation of the vehicles that drive in, so even the most polluting commuter vehicle will be entitled to add to congestion and pollution without sanction. It will also cut the number of spaces available to residents, in roads where parking is already tight.”

Mr Hayes also challenged the Council’s claim that this transport strategy is pollution fighting measure. He said: “This will do nothing to tackle pollution problems in Ealing. It is targeted at a relatively small area of the borough, mainly central and south Ealing, Acton and Chiswick, which Labour itself has identified as the “affluent” areas.”

“There are no proposals to encourage ‘modal shift’ in the parts of the borough where CPZs are not in force. Those areas contribute equally, if not more, to pollution and congestion since they are often poorly served by public transport. There’s not even a proposal to encourage such a shift among those residents in CPZs who enjoy off-street parking and thus don’t pay for a permit.”

“The real causes of pollution in Ealing are the heavily used arterial routes, including the A40 and North Circular Road, running through it. Poor road layout and eternal roadworks create numerous pinch points that slow down traffic and increase the levels of pollution. Council leader Julian Bell – a notorious car-hater – starred in an online video last year alongside the A40 in Acton highlighting the pollution problems there. But even he can’t stick a toll booth on that road to charge the HGVs, vans and other far more polluting vehicles from passing through.”

Ealing Council has defended its policy and claims the law is on its side. Head of Legal Services, Helen Harris said: “I remain happy that Ealing Council’s Transport Strategy is lawful and in compliance with the legal principles set out in the Barnet case.  Revenue generation formed no part of the justification for the Strategy.”

Ms Harris has yet to respond to requests about the failure to consult residents on the proposed changes to the permit charges or the failure to consult on the expansion of the shared use bay schemes or the legal grounds on which it can impose a charge on certain residents but not others.

Mr Hayes has vowed to continue to fight the proposed plans.

He said: “There is a great deal of anger about this right across the borough. Even Labour voters are aghast at the arrogance of the Council. It may take a judicial review, but there is something seriously wrong if Council’s are allowed to set arbitrary taxes such as this without challenge. For too long now local authorities, particularly in London, have been allowed to get away with these stealth taxes. We’re all for improving air quality, but targeting only certain road users is the wrong way to go about this.”

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Ealing 20 Mph Zone

The London Borough of Ealing is proposing a wide area 20 mph speed limit in Acton. You can read more about it and respond to the consultation (which ends on the 18th December so you need to get your comments in quickly) here: http://www.ealing.gov.uk/info/200628/current_consultations/2059/acton_20_mph_speed_limit_trial_consultation

This is a “trial” scheme, but if successful is likely to be rolled out across all of the borough. From past experience such trial schemes are rarely rolled back simply because of the money spent on implementing them.

The Alliance of British Drivers has consistently opposed wide area 20 mph schemes because there is no evidence of road safety benefits. In fact the council are pre-empting a study which has been commissioned by the DfT on such schemes, but evidence from existing ones make any benefits appear to be very unlikely. Indeed in some schemes, accidents have increased. Although traffic speeds may be reduced by 1 mph (on average) in such schemes, that is hardly noticeable by most people.

But it can add significantly to journey times and put you at risk of collecting a speeding fine for driving at what you might consider a safe speed. The council’s supportive arguments are full of dubious claims, such as that it will reduce traffic congestion – that is simply nonsense as there is no evidence whatsoever to support that. Likewise they say lower speed limits will encourage cycling and walking, which might be beneficial if it was true, but again there is no evidence of such effects in existing schemes.

The council does not tell you what this scheme will cost in the consultation material, but it will be expensive. And it will be a waste of money that would be better spent on other road safety projects.

So please make sure you object if you live in the borough, or drive through it.