Castle NAP meeting, and meeting dates for 2009-10

Unfortunately, I had to leave the Castle Neighbourhood Action Panel meeting early yesterday because of it clashing with the Policy Review and Development Panel meeting, so I don’t have a huge amount to report from it. However, the problems of parking on new estates has come up again, and we’re continuing to try and find out from Essex Highways when certain roads might be adopted so we can bring them into our parking regulations. This is becoming a particular problem in certain areas where the developers aren’t interested in enforcing any parking restrictions, so a free-for-all ensues.

The other major issue I was there for concerned the structure of NAP meetings. At present, there are two sections to the meeting – an open one, where members of the public can attend and bring their problems and queries for the Panel to discuss and consider, followed by a closed session where the Panel can discuss the issues in greater depth. The question being asked is whether that’s the best way to proceed and whether its the model adopted elsewhere in the county and the country. The problem comes with the NAP being seen as secretive – especially when having to ask members of the public to leave once their particular problem has been discussed – but the counter to that is that certain matters, especially concerning information from the police and people who don’t want to be publicly identified as complaining about something, have to be discussed in private. I’d be grateful for any thoughts, comments or suggestions people might have on this.

I’ve also got the full schedule of meetings for the NAP until the end of 2010, which is below the ‘read more’ link:

Read the rest of this entry

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Turkeys against Christmas

Just as a quick followup to my recent posts on parking, the Gazette have discovered that the owner of a parking firm is against a ban on clamping. Apparently “the police would have anarchy in the UK”, if such a ban were to be brought in.

Coming soon, shock revelations about the Pope’s religious beliefs.

I do love how the AA and the RAC Foundation can get headlines merely for stating the obvious on behalf of their nebulous memberships. Today, for instance, we learn that the AA are against cars being clamped by private companies, which the RAC Foundation also told us they were against about a month ago. Interestingly, the pictures BBC News use for both of those stories appear to be of the same car, just from a slightly different angle, which is somewhat apt.

That’s not to say that there isn’t a problem with some of the private parking companies, though one of the reasons they’ve had so many complaints around here is because of the number of new roads and new estates that have been built over the last few years. As there’s a delay in getting these roads adopted (often because the last thing developers pay for is the work to get the roads to an adoptable standard), drivers realise there’s nothing to stop them parking there for free – especially when somewhere’s convenient for the town centre or train station – and the developer or management company has to call in a private parking firm to police the area. Going back to my earlier post on parking issues, this is how parking issues develop as a symptom of other issues with planning and development.

Of course, with the splurge in house-building tailing off and the backlog of roads finally being adopted, it’ll be interesting to see what happens to the private parking market as their field of operations becomes smaller. Why do I expect that it will only take a few years before the AA and RAC Foundation are calling for more parking enforcement by Councils?

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Being a Councillor in a town with a lot of old streets and a lot of new developments mean parking issues tend to come up quite frequently. So, I found this article on the wider costs of providing parking spaces quite interesting, especially in the light on some of the experiences we’ve had.

Of course, much of the article is from an American perspective, and their experience of the issue is much different to ours as a lot of their infrastructure – indeed, a lot of their cities – was mapped out after the rise of the car, which can result in a style of urban geography that’s quite alien to European eyes. That sensation of working out how to get from A to B across what looks like an ocean of concrete before realising that you’re intended to drive across is one not normally replicated on this side of the Atlantic.

However, while the article does point out some of the disadvantages caused by creating parking spaces, it’s a bit light on the problems that can be created by insufficient parking. The example of Vauban in Germany does show that it’s possible to design the car out of a residential urban environment, but that was with special attention paid to what replaced the car, especially for commuting. The problem we’ve faced with new developments has been one of designing them with limited parking spaces, but then not ensuring that the replacement transport systems are in place. This, of course, means that people still have the same number of cars but don’t have the places to park them and so we end up with streets covered in parked cars – though one could argue (not very successfully, I would imagine) that’s just keeping the heritage appearance, as it’s the same situation with old streets which were built without parking spaces in mind.

I’m sure I could come up with some wonderfully glib solution to the problem as a conclusion, but this is an issue that cuts across a number of areas – beyond planning and transport issues, there’s some very thorny economics about the costs and benefits of car travel – and what can seem like a simple solution only throws up more problems. So, if there’s anyone out there in my rather small peanut gallery with a solution, feel free to share.

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