After 6 hours talking about car-parking, Gavin Corbett, pauses for reflection.
Car-parking is a big issue in the Shandon area of the ward I represent. Figures obtained by the Community Council from the DVLA showed that there are more than 1100 vehicles registered in the area and, we reckon, only something over 900 spaces. So change is not really a matter of policy; it is an arithmetical necessity, unless we are to persist with the current (and worsening situation) of cars obstructing pavements or corners at some risk and inconvenience to others.
Over the last two evenings I have joined a range of officers from the City Council for drop-in sessions at Craiglockhart Primary School with the aim of seeking views as to what might make things better.
So there have been two main purposes. The first is to introduce some specific proposals to improve safety and access by removing the worst examples of parking on pavements, on corners and over dropped kerbs. And, secondly, to ask residents what they would like to see done to manage car-parking better.
Initial feedback suggests that over 150 local residents came along and many more, I am sure, will give their views online. It was pleasing to see people spending quite a bit of time looking at the maps of safety proposals but also picking up information about other options like cycling and access to car-sharing via the City Car Club. I felt that people were getting a chance to ask officers detailed questions and get answers and to be listened to in a way that is not possible in a traditional public meeting format.
I only managed to speak to some of the people attending over the two days but I was encouraged at how reflective the points made were. Unless you live on a specific street or, indeed, a specific house on a specific street, it is impossible to pick up every nuance – thanks to the detailed points people made, we now have those. I was also struck by how many people approached me to say that the council needs to go further; that taking reasonable action to control parking so that it is safe, accentuates even further the question as to who gets priority for the space that is there. Of course, the fundamental answer to that conundrum is to reduce the overall volume of cars. As above, that is not a matter of policy – it is simple arithmetic. That will take local, city-wide and national policies, coupled with the individual choices made by households who have opted to live in a densely-packed area like Shandon most of which was built before cars were invented. But, in the meantime, we also need to judge how best to deal with current volumes.
So what happens now? Three things, I suggest.
Firstly, council officers will take away all the feedback and distil it into main points. That will feed, in the first instance, into any adjustments that need to be made to Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs), which are the formal legal means by which changes to road markings and signs are made. From what I could gather over the two days, there was quite a lot of general support for the safety and access proposals that have been made so I am going to assume that at least some of the changes will now go to formal legal consultation. That can take 6-9 months in total before markings go out and signs go up.
Secondly, the Council will look at all the other suggestions that have been made and assess if there is a basis for a next stage of proposals, picking up on some of the longer term options I mentioned above but also weaving in specific ideas raised. In that way I believe that we can come up with a parking / traffic plan for the community that is derived from the bottom up – tailored to the specific needs and circumstances of Shandon.
Thirdly, there will be feedback to all residents in the area on what is going to happen. Amid a lot of positive comments, a repeated criticism I heard is that the Council has been engaging with the community a lot over the last 10 years on parking but feedback as to what has happened with that engagement has been weak. That needs to change.
Personally, I am pretty determined that we turn the tide of what has been a gradually worsening situation for many years. No-one I spoke to sees the status quo as viable; no-one wants to see increasing tensions between neighbours over where to park a car. In time I’d like to see a neighbourhood which accommodated vehicles in a bit fewer numbers; and where more people felt able to choose cycling, buses or car-sharing as alternatives. That would be better for everyone, including car-owners.