Councillors take conciliatory tone at Parking Meeting

Policy change pledged by end of year following a consultation process

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Chiswick Councillors took a conciliatory tone with the community at the area committee meeting to discuss parking issues on Wednesday.

The special meeting, called and chaired by Cllr Paul Lynch was attended by more than fifty concerned residents who were given the chance to put forward their grievances on CPZ reviews, towing and loading bays to parking management officials from Hounslow Council.

The most contentious issue of the evening meeting proved to be the council’s towing policy. After stating that parking on a “single yellow line was an equal offence as parking on a double one and therefore it was correct to tow away the offending vehicle”, Hounslow’s Head of Street Management Suresh Kamath went on to explain that policy was a matter for the administration to set politicians and his department only carried out their instructions.

Leader of the Council Peter Thompson pledged that new policies would be ready by the end of the year and that the community would be consulted on these before implementation – a statement that was met with huge applause.  

He told "Parking is one of those issues that generates strong feelings because it impacts so immediately on peoples' quality of life. As a local councillor I am fully aware of the concerns that residents have over how the schemes in Chiswick operate. The current policies that dictate that way Hounslow Council runs its parking schemes were decided with no consultation by the previous administration. We have stressed repeatedly that we stand for open and transparent decision making and therefore we arranged this special meeting, listened to peoples points a of view and promised to act. By the end of this year we will have reviewed our policies, introduced the changes people want and put in place a wholescale review of the parking schemes in Chiswick"

Councillors scored points with their comments and pledges for reform, laying the blame for the parking mess firmly at the feet of their Labour predecessors.  However certain residents were less amiable with one leading member of the local Conservative party, Cole Manson, branding Suresh Kamath "a liar".  Other residents were more constructive putting forward their ideas for reform. These included:

• Implementation of the five minute observation period that should be undertaken by parking attendants under Hounslow’s policy
• One hour grace period between issue of PCN and towing
• Special consideration for cars displaying valid resident parking permits ie. not towing them from the street in which they live
• Appropriate timely reviews for all CPZs
• House numbers on visitors parking permits to combat misuse
• Review of council policy on issuing business parking permits

Justifying the increase in targets for issuing PCN for the financial year 2006/07, Chiswick Councillor Gerald McGregor stated that if the council had not made £2.5 million surplus last year (a lower figure than was hoped for) the shortfall would have had to have been made up by raising council tax.  He went onto say that the council hoped to make a £3m surplus in the next financial year.  "Setting targets for revenue from PCNs is necessary to prevent a greater rise in council tax." he said adding that not to do so would be "unfair" to other residents of the borough on lower or fixed incomes.

What was clear to all who attended the meeting was that the council policy and its implementation were on opposite sides of a significant divide. The reality experienced by residents was quite different from policy instigated by the parking managers. Officials have pledged to include this in their policy review.  Following the meeting, Cllr Paul Lynch said " I was very impressed with the members of the public who attended. There were many constructive suggestions. We are determined to start a process to improve the approach to the parking problems. What can be done quickly will be done quickly. Not everything can be, there is a stately pace to the amendment of a traffic order, for instance, which we cannot influence."

After claiming a “willingness to change” only time will tell if the new administration’s actions are as bold as their words and with December not far off, that time will come quickly.

October 22, 2006