This is a massively expensive venture due to cost Â£5.45 million of which Â£127,000 has already been spent on a temporary car park at Hambrough Road and other preparatory work. There was broad agreement that Southall is congested with traffic and needs a solution to its parking pressure.
The councilâ€™s paper was hilariously patronising in places: â€œThe characteristics of the majority Asian population, mostly relies upon the usage of the car.â€ Most people in west London rely on their cars if not for commuting then for much of their leisure activity at the weekend.
The scrutiny committee asked to see a business case. What they were shown in the papers was some history, a political argument and some facts that allude to demand. The main plank for the demand argument seems to be that Ealing and West Ealing combined has a higher ratio of car parking spaces compared with retail floor space than Southall. For comparison (see bottom of page 6 of main report) the Ealing/West Ealing number is 2.34 compared to 0.92 for Southall. The councilâ€™s case is that Ealing has 2.5 times as much parking as Southall. They omit the figures for office space as they would substantially redress the balance and undermine the case the council is trying to make. The second main plank of the demand argument is that the councilâ€™s Herbert Road multi-storey car park is at capacity. It is, but only on weekend afternoons, like most town centre car parks, just the same as the massive Ealing Broadway Shopping Centre car park and the whole of Kingston town centre. Overall the Herbert Road car park is only 35% occupied through the length of its charged for opening times.
Cllr Kamiljit Dhindsa, Southall Green ward, was particularly vociferous on the car park subject and spoke in favour of adding 500 spaces to Southall. The Councilâ€™s ambition is to provide 90 spaces, maybe a few more if possible, for the Â£5.323 million left in the pot. We are talking Â£60K per parking space here so letâ€™s hope that Cllr Dhindsa doesnâ€™t get his way! Dhindsa also felt that the price for parking in Southall was too high and that the current charges of Â£1.50 an hour weekdays and Â£2 an hour on weekends was unfair compared to charges around the Â£1 mark elsewhere in the Borough.
We all want parking to be easier and cheaper so Cllr Dhindsaâ€™s aspirations are perfectly reasonable. The reality is though that we will mostly be disappointed. It is not clear why Southall should be different. The councilâ€™s demand evidence is weak.
I will write further on: