Response from Cllr Rohit Grover and Cllr Michael Mire to the Garden Suburb Parking Engagement exercise

Background
Between October and November 2021 the Council undertook an ‘Engagement on Parking’ survey in the Garden Suburb Ward. This exercise was carried out because many parts of the ward have no parking controls and therefore attract commuter and other non-residential parking activity, and the Council wanted to avoid a piecemeal approach to the introduction of Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs), which in previous years has had the effect of pushing parking pressure into adjacent streets.


Cllr Grover, along with Cllr John Marshall and Cllr Gabriel Rozenberg (both of whom are no longer councillors following the May 2022 elections) were all consulted on the engagement exercise before it took place, and were supportive of the approach.


The results of this exercise were presented to Cllr Grover and Cllr Mire (newly elected in May 2022), on 9 August 2022. We were briefed by officers on survey responses (in total and on a street-by-street basis), along with the Council’s proposed way forward. Given the data-heavy nature of this information, both of us requested that a copy of the presentation be sent to us following the meeting. This was declined on the basis that ‘its contents are still in draft’, and instead a summary of the responses would be provided ‘to enable you to make an informed decision on your thoughts for a proposed CPZ in the Garden Suburb Area’. As elected ward councillors both of us were disappointed not to be provided with a full breakdown of the survey responses, as well as a map of the extension of current CPZ arrangements that was being proposed by officers. This information would have greatly assisted us in making this response.


The summary that was provided revealed that out of 1791 properties in the engagement area, a total of 397 responses were received (22%), and only 27% of respondents were in support of parking controls, with 68% against. Our recollection of the street-by-street data that was presented to us on 9 August is that only two streets within the engagement area expressed majority support for a CPZ: Hogarth Hill and Meadway Close. Our recollection of the proposed extension of the CPZ recommended by Council officers is that it would cover a significantly larger area than is currently the case, to include all of the GSB polling district, and most of GSC.
 

Our response
Councillors Grover and Mire are both in agreement that we do not support such a substantial extension of the existing CPZ arrangements, for the following reasons:


1. The survey results do not support such an expansion: 78% of residents did not respond to the exercise, and of the 22% that did only 27% expressed support for parking restrictions. It is our view that CPZs represent a substantial change to the status quo, such that they should have majority support by residents before being implemented. We believe this has been the case with the introduction of previous CPZs and are firm believers in this basic democratic principle.


2. The facts on the ground do not support the introduction of such a large-scale intervention: apart from a small number of streets (see below), the area of the proposed extension (taking in streets such as Northway, Oakwood Road, Middleway, Southway, Thornton Way, Bigwood Road, Litchfield Road – and many more) does not experience the type of parking pressures that would justify a CPZ. Both of us regularly monitor and record parking levels in the area (we are happy to share this data with officers), and we would also point to the surveys undertaken by officers in 2017, which concluded that ‘there appears to be sufficient capacity in the relevant roads to accommodate all vehicles who wish to park in the area’ (see link here to report from the Finchley and Golders Green Area Committee meeting of 18 February 2018).


3. There is evidence to suggest that, since the pandemic, commuter parking has in fact reduced across the Borough: the Executive Director of Strategy & Resources’ report on ‘Forecast Financial Outturn at Month 4’ identifies ‘changed patterns of behaviour’ as a risk to ‘parking and traffic income’ on the basis that ‘a full return to commuter parking and peak travel patterns are not likely’. A link to the report can be found here (agenda item 16 of the Environment and Climate Change Committee that took place on 6 September 2022).


4. The schools and nurseries within the area employ over 350 staff members, and we understand that approximately 50% have no alternative other than to use their own vehicles as they live in areas where public transport is impractical. Staff recruitment is one of the biggest issues facing these educational establishments and one of the possible consequences of such a large scale CPZ intervention would be a reduction in staff numbers due to lack of available parking provision, which would lead to a reduction in school and nursery places.


5. We do not believe that it is appropriate to impose a further (unasked for) financial burden on residents in the midst of a ‘cost of living’ crisis caused by rising inflation, energy bills and mortgage payments (an issue that was also identified as a risk to parking income in the aforementioned Financial Outturn report).


Our recommendation
However, while we do not support the proposal of a large-scale CPZ intervention as currently envisaged by Council officers, we are mindful that there are specific issues within Garden Suburb ward that merit – and indeed require as a matter of priority, some form of intervention.

 

These are:


1. Addison Way/Hogarth Hill
Parking pressures exist on Addison Way, particularly the stretch from the entrance at Finchley Road up to the junction with Hogarth Hill, and on to Hogarth Hill itself. The most likely explanation is proximity to Temple Fortune High Street, and the bus stops on Finchley Road which lead to Golders Green underground station. These pressures are particularly acute on Hogarth Hill and indeed a residents’ petition requesting a CPZ for this street was submitted to the Finchley and Golders Green Area Committee on 8 October 2020 (see link here).
Hogarth Hill was one of the streets which indicated majority support for a CPZ in the 2021 engagement survey, and while this was not the case for Addison Way this is most likely due to the fact that it is a long road which stretches all the way up to Oakwood Road, and parking pressures reduce the further away one gets from Finchley Road. As councillors, we are regularly contacted by a number of residents from both Hogarth Hill and Addison Way pleading with us to introduce a CPZ.


2. Meadway
The existing CPZ stops at the junction with Heathgate, and there is a longstanding issue with parking pressures that stretch from this junction up to the junction with Thornton Way/Wildwood Road. A residents’ petition was presented to the Finchley and Golders Green Area Committee on 30 November 2016 to this effect – see link here. The most likely explanation for these parking pressures is proximity to Golders Green underground station, and Golders Green and Temple Fortune high streets.


Meadway is a very long road which stretches all the way from Meadway Gate up to Holne Chase, and parking pressures reduce the further away one gets from Meadway Gate. This would likely explain why the road in its entirety did not indicate majority support for a CPZ in the engagement exercise. However, residents on the stretch from Heathgate to Thornton Way/Wildwood Road have been pleading for a CPZ for many years.


3. Wildwood Road
Wildwood Road is a particularly complex and problematic case, experiencing not so much parking pressures as parking and traffic ‘problems’ in the stretch that runs adjacent to the Heath Extension. These problems are attributable to a range of factors: (a) a number of large ‘motor-home’ type vehicles (with people living in them) becoming almost a permanent feature, with Council officers seemingly unable to move them on; (b) a large number of commercial vehicles using it as a free parking facility; (c) the fact that it is a long and winding road, with parking on both sides punctuated by occasional yellow lines, leading to a mixture of stop start vehicle movements and driver stand-offs when vehicles approach from opposite directions; and (d) a large number of visitors from outside of the immediate area (including dog walkers), who - quite rightly, enjoy the wonderful amenity of the Heath Extension. Residents living on this stretch of Wildwood Road are finding the multitude of problems increasingly unbearable.


We accept that expanding existing CPZ arrangements into these areas would not be a straightforward exercise (noting the high number of smaller streets leading off from these major roads that would also need to be considered). We also acknowledge that it would amount to a continuation of the piecemeal approach that the 2021 engagement exercise was designed to avoid. However, we believe that the very low response rate to this exercise, and low number of residents who have actively expressed support for a CPZ, would mean that such a large-scale intervention would be inappropriate and raise questions over the integrity of the process. We also believe that based on current and predicted parking patterns, there is capacity within the ward to accommodate any parking displacement that may occur.
We note that the proposal is to implement the large-scale CPZ expansion by way of an ‘Experimental Traffic Order’ (ETO) – essentially a pilot providing a period of 12-18 months where the controls will be monitored and reviewed to ensure they are effective, and if necessary make changes before they become permanent. We would suggest that, rather than introduce the large-scale expansion that has been proposed, a more limited intervention dealing with the issues we have outlined above could itself be implemented via an ETO. It is our view that it would be more rational to introduce a limited intervention and increase its scope following a review, rather than implement a large-scale intervention and reduce its scope following a review.


Our request for transparency

Finally, we also wish to point out that despite our requests, we have been unable to ascertain what the decision-making process around the outcome of the 2021 engagement exercise will be. We therefore feel it is necessary for the full results of the engagement exercise to be made public, along with this response we are making as ward councillors, and also along with the Council’s rationale for implementing whatever interventions ultimately transpire.