In May 2010 Labour included “A new car park for Southall.” in their manifesto. This does not give them the right to provide one. They still need to demonstrate that the decision is a reasonable one, based on sound policy making. The performance of the Hambrough Road car park and the projections for the final version of the car park show conclusively that the decision is not reasonable.
The Labour members of the scrutiny committee last Thursday did not want to hear this. Their basic position is that might is right. They cannot argue that the decision is financially sound so they argue instead that it will provide benefits to Southall traders that are unquantified anywhere in the reports. Southall traders have not been consulted about this scheme.
Indeed the most telling exchange of last Thursday evening was when Cllr Jason Stacey for the Conservatives asked Biljinder Thakher from Southall Traders Association whether he would choose a new car park on the cattle market site or wider use of dual use CPZs which allow both residents parking and pay and display (like our neighbours in Hammersmith & Fulham and much of the rest of south west London). In spite of Labour councillors trying to shout down the response he clearly stated that as a representative of Southall traders he would go for dual use CPZs.
What is happening in Southall is quite straightforward. There is a widespread perception, shared by the councillors, that Southall is congested and has a parking problem. This “problem” is acutely felt by the traders who would love for the Council to give their businesses a boost by providing extra parking. Meanwhile residents don’t want to see shoppers competing with them for on street parking. The councillors want to keep everyone happy so £5.45 million of everyone else’s money looks like a good solution. In the meantime there has been no attempt to research driver/shopper’s behaviour, no attempt to redesign Southall town centre, no attempt to signpost the existing parking facilities, no attempt to come up with park and ride type facilities.
There was general agreement at last Thursday’s scrutiny meeting that the congestion and parking issues in Southall needed to be addressed. The previous Tory administration made two attempts to tackle the problem. Labour’s answer is to throw a headline grabbing but essentially wasteful lump of cash at the problem. £5.45 million worth!
At the end of the evening the committee split down party lines with the Labour councillors welcoming the report and recommending that the council proceeded with this daft “investment” and the opposition councillors voting against.
The numbers prove that a new car park won’t solve Southall’s congestion problems. Labour have dug themselves into a hole. Time to stop digging? The Hambrough Road car park should be shut and the site used for housing and the whole car park idea shelved. In the meantime maybe they should spend a small amount of money on signposting the existing car parks and trialing some dual use CPZ bays.