Sutton’s Parking Strategy – How not to Consult

Well what a night! 

Democracy reared its head at the Council Meeting yesterday evening and the Liberal Democrat ruling group retreated into their normal defences of ignoring what didn’t agree with them and procedural nonsense which the majority of the hundreds of members of the public presents were not briefed on.

The meeting location was poor, there were not enough chairs, the sound system was poor, it was cold but, most importantly, there was no sense of inclusion for the public – no briefing and the Mayor, chairing the meeting, even had to be reminded from the floor of basic housekeeping announcements!

In Beddington North, we have become familiar with this public exclusion whether it be the Incinerator, pedestrian crossings, proposed development on Sheen Way  or the demolition of bungalows but this was a completely new departure – Parking in Sutton – the Liberal Democrat strategy for income generation, I mean parking.

The concept of this strategy was introduced last year at Local Committee where we were told that our local area – that is Wallington North, Wallington South, Beddington North and Beddington South – was last in the implementation queue.

But it is important that all households yet to join in this debacle, understand that when an envelope drops through your letterbox with a questionnaire, as residents in St Helier, the Wrythe and other northern wards have found out, it is less a questionnaire and more next steps in a process to lead you to tacit agreement with this flawed Parking Strategy – ignore it and they will claim you agree, complete it and they may still ignore you, but even they cannot ignore everybody – so please complete the document!

The nature of the questionnaire is such that any marketeer would reject it as leading the conclusion – question 5 asks the question “Do you think parking problems exist in your street?” – it offers a simplistic Yes, No or Undecided. No attempt is made to qualify the response aside from timing.

Yet question 8 offers prescriptive solutions that include Controlled Parking Zones (CPZ’s) then questions 9 and 10 refine detail on CPZ’s.  And in the overall results it comes as no surprise that the “most popular” solution with 50% of the respondents voting for it are CPZ’s!!

Look more carefully at the results and the table of “What time of day is it hardest to park in your street” – the highest numbers are in that bracket of between 18.00 and 23.59 when you are getting home from work.  Worst of all, and not unexpectedly in this early phase, is in the very centre of Sutton – the second worst? You are ahead of me, it is in current CPZ’s.

So CPZ’s are clearly not the universal solution.

When we get to Beddington North – it is blockages around rat runs (Collyer Avenue, Queenswood Avenue, Tharp Road and Beddington Grove) or where the Council’s own parking restrictions, for example in Beddington Lane and Richmond Road have a knock-on effect for residents in surrounding roads.

There is no single parking issue and definitely no “one size all” solution – and for us in Beddington North, it is counter intuitive for the ruling group to crow about the 21 new houses in Richmond Green, scheduled for Social Rental where they offer 39 parking spaces and then place constraints and further costs on the rest of us.

I think all of us would welcome a plan that delivers a cohesive strategy on public transport, traffic improvements and parking.  An avaricious glance over the Borough border at the London Borough of Merton’s reported £10 million surplus from imposing CPZ’s is not going to deliver it.

Listening properly to residents most probably will.

And for those who left last night’s proceedings when the waffling had ended on parking, you missed something that probably sums up the malaise that afflicts this whole process.

A Liberal Democrat Councillor put forward a motion about the funding formula for education.  Councillor Tim Crowley, Leader of the Opposition Group raised a point of order that an Amendment from his group had been rejected – his concern was that it concerned the truth and accuracy of the motion.  The Council’s Head of Governance confirmed the rejection and stated clearly that there was no requirement for the content of a motion to be true.

And there you have it, oh, and of course the motion passed with universal approval from the Ruling Group.

In Beddington North we will continue to seek out the opinions and ideas of residents, keep them informed and scrutinise every aspect of the Parking Strategy, the deteriorating air quality and other impositions from a ruling group whose self-interest appears to come before any other consideration.

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