On Saturday I attended the meeting with Southwark Council, organised by the Friends of Belair Park.
Councillor Andy Simmons attended from Southwark. There were around 30-40 people in attendance.
I'm going to keep the following to 'the facts' of what I recall/noted from the meeting. Opinions expressed are not my own etc. If you also attended pls feel free to add to the below.
Note that although the meeting touched on the scheme as it would apply to all Southwark parks, there was a specific focus on Belair park, for obvious reasons.
INTRODUCTION AND BACKGROUND
After an introduction by the Chair of Friends, Andy introduced himself and outlined the rationale for the parking charges. This was fairly obvious - Southwark council have a budget hole and are turning over every available stone to generate revenue. Andy acknowledged this is an emotive and controversial plan, and is aware of the many reasons that there will be objections.
He then specifically mentioned that objections to new council measures tend to get a lot more attention if there were alternative proposals suggested, so encouraged everyone to consider other revenue generating/cost saving initiatives. He cited other parks elsewhere in London that have turned to different solutions during these budget squeezes, eg those that chose to cut back on gardening, litter picking etc in order to avoid charging for parking.
He also said that there were additional benefits to the plan, including encouraging people to leave cars at home to promote the Cleaner Greener Air scheme.
The charging is yet to be decided; it is currently proposed at £2/hr with Blue Badge holders not paying.
POINTS FROM THE FLOOR
He then opened the floor to questions. There were many points raised; below in brief are the principle points I noted down. If you were there and recall more pls feel fre to add
- Belair Park is surrounded by 3 local schools and many nurseries who rely on the park car park as a drop off point for children. Without this there will be pressure on surrounding roads and back streets which are already congested and gridlocked. This brings into question the viability of claims of benefits to air quality and the environment. Congested back streets are more than likely to become CPZs as a result of this
- Many children play in and enjoy Belair Park after school as a result of parents using the car park as a pickup point. There is a real community here - children from all schools, backgrounds, and walks of life are currently using and enjoying the park together.
- Challenges were raised around exactly how much money this scheme would bring in; if there were less cars being driven to Belair Park then realistically the revenue generated would be fairly insignificant compared to the funding gap that Southwark find themselves in.
- There are few other modes of transport available. Belair Park is very poorly served by public transport links; the P13 along the South Circular is infrequent. Insufficient segregated cycle lanes in the area. Those with younger children going to nurseries etc don't have any other option.
- This scheme has been attempted before in 2013 and was knocked back. Andy Simmons' predecessor attended the meeting (did anyone catch her name/details?) and challenged the need to do this when Dulwich Ward were spending ££ on other schemes (eg £42k on love Dulwich lampost signs)
- There are many people who are not blue-badge holders but are challenged to get to the park on available public transport eg elderly, unwell
- This will hit those hardest who are unable to afford it - families without access to local green spaces who will now need to pay.
- Queries around the cost of policing/patrolling Belair car park. Andy said that there were no costs since APCOA currently provide this service free of charge, and are paid by the fines they levy. There were challenges to this statement that this was not the case, or may not be the case going fwd.
- More generally the argument that privatising our public spaces is not a road we want to go down as the principle of our green spaces should be that they free to all; we already pay for them through taxation. This is the 'thin end of the wedge' and is opens the door to freely increasing charges in the future in the event of financial mismanagement of the local authorities.
- Yet another hidden tax on motorists
- A challenge from someone late into the meeting which was interesting: there is case law of existing parks in North London that attempted this and were told that money raised in parks is available for spending only within the parks themselves. Does anyone know the lady that raised this or know more? This is an interesting point which I don't feel Andy had a response for
- If this scheme is going ahead anyway, a number of alternatives were proposed including a discounted 'annual pass' enabling those that need to continue to use the car park without the daily charge, and also amnesty periods eg 8-10am, 3-5pm
SO WHAT HAPPENS NOW?
The official consultation period begins today (1st Apr) and will last for 6 weeks. This is NOT a statutory consultation - ie the council is under no obligation to respond. The consultation will be available here [consultations.southwark.gov.uk
] and everyone is encouraged to register their objections/proposals
I've just checked the site and the proposal is not yet on there, but will probably be put up this week.
The more people that respond to this, the more our voices will be heard so....
PLEASE MAKE EVERY EFFORT TO RESPOND!