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Photo via Colin Bridgewater

Council listens to Maygrove parking problems

Photo via Colin Bridgewater

Photo via Colin Bridgewater

If you’re following the Maygrove Road parking story, then you’ll be interested in this update from MILAM (the local residents association) chair Monica Regli.

Monica presented the MILAM deputation on parking and traffic issues to Camden’s environment and cultural scrutiny meeting at the town hall. She says that councillors were largely sympathetic to the problems but there was still a feeling that they need to see 800 signatures from CA-Q residents before they engage in any more formal consultation or discussion with residents.

MILAM argued that 800 was too high a barrier for such a small and very defined area. The petition currently has 200 signatures, and it is possible apparently for the council to use their discretion in terms of enforcing the 800 level.

Camden built its position heavily on the car-free developments, pointing out that while residents of these developments shouldn’t have cars this should not prevent relatives and visitors with cars visiting them. Restricting parking at weekends therefore, would mean these residents would have to buy visitor permits for relatives or friends.

The idea of creating a subzone was not dismissed out-of-hand, but it would require further consultation given the inevitable knock-on effect to other roads. MILAM argues that its streets are more or less boxed in by the railway tracks and thus realistically there aren’t so many roads for cars to spill over into, without then requiring a long walk to a front door.

@NW6resident "Another horrendous morning in Maygrove road! Screaming arguments, reversing full length of road! Wake up @camdentalking #congestion #help!"

Developments pile pressure on street parking

Some residents of Maygrove and Iverson Roads are fed up with the increasingly difficult parking situation they face in light of all the new developments on these roads.

The local residents association, MILAM, wants to see a review of parking hours and is suggesting a sub-zone that has different rules to the CA-Q zone in which these streets sit. Specifically, it would like to see controls extending past 6.30pm.

CA-Q is a large zone that runs along Kilburn High Road from Quex Road all the way up to Cricklewood. It has controlled parking between 8.30am and 6.30pm. Camden is reluctant to sub-divide the zone although subdivisions are not unusual – there are already two within CA-Q. However, any change to zone rules inevitably has knock-on effects and therefore not everyone is automatically in favour of change.

CA-Q parking zone runs from Cricklewood to Kilburn

CA-Q parking zone runs from Cricklewood to Kilburn

Camden has said that for any review of parking it needs a petition signed by 800 residents of the affected parking zone. As it happens, a petition has already been set up by a resident of Maygrove Road. She was fed up of not being able to park as she used to before the recent developments opened. If you want to sign it (and you live or work in the CA-Q area) click here.

What’s the problem?
The new developments on Iverson and Maygrove – The Residence (91 units, Maygrove Rd), The Central (33 units, Iverson) and The Ivery (19 units, Iverson) – are designated “car free”, like every other new development in Camden. This creates a ‘carparteid’ between residents of new developments and existing residents.

“Car free” means no parking spaces for residents (although The Residence does offer some underground parking for disabled drivers) and in theory, these residents are also not allowed parking permits for street parking. However, as MILAM residents are finding, theory and reality are two different things. Some new residents appear able to get round controls; of course they can legally park outside the controlled hours, some can get hold of a blue badge for disabled drivers, it’s possible to get a local friend to register the car to get a permit, or to hire a local garage space, displacing another car onto the road that can legally obtain a permit, or use visitors’ permits.

Anecdotal evidence from longer-term residents such as Monica Regli, chair of MILAM, suggests that while there used to be spare parking spaces, these have filled up and people have started to park on single yellow lines.

@NW6_residents: Once again no parking for residents! Instead more arguments as not one-way!

@NW6_residents: Once again no parking for residents! Instead more arguments as not one-way!

Now the single yellow lines are filling up, which creates additional problems. Cars parking on the single yellow lines mean that traffic can no longer pull over on Maygrove Road to allow oncoming cars to pass. The result: cars getting stuck head-to-head and road rage incidents. According to Monica, there are now calls for Maygrove to become a one-way street.

@NW6_residents "Another horrendous morning in Maygrove road! Screaming arguments, reversing full length of road! Wake up @camdentalking #congestion #help!"

@NW6_residents “Another horrendous morning in Maygrove Road! Screaming arguments, reversing full length of road!”

Will it get worse?
Yes. Almost certainly. The new school on Liddell Road opens this September. At first it will be year one pupils only; but each year a new class will join. The head teacher won’t have to worry though, she gets her own parking space.

The problem is set to get worse still with phase two of Liddell Road (the flats and business space) as Camden seems to have ignored the GLA guidelines on parking. This development will have 106 residential units and 3700m2 of business space, which is approximately enough for 40-50 people. All served by two and a half disabled parking spaces.

Let’s not forget that West Hampstead Square is about to open with 196 new flats, and some employment space, and Camden will decide shortly on  156 West End Lane with most likely another 164 units and 1,800m2 of employment space. It’s true that many residents won’t have cars – car ownership in this part of London is very low, but it isn’t zero. The excellent transport links mean that employees can probably get to and from work on tube, train or bus, but firms have clients, deliveries and disabled employees.

It also seems unrealistic to think that none of these residents will have cars already, or may need a car for work (doctors, midwives, plumbers, etc.). Are more car club spaces the answer? Possibly, though demand is lower than you might think – West Hamsptead Square actually removed some car club spaces.

What are the objections to parking changes?
James Earl, chair of the Fordwych Road residents association (and of the Neighbourhood Development Forum) is not in favour of wholesale changes to the parking zone rules because of the possible knock on impact to other streets outside any sub-zone. A new resident of the Residence on Maygrove Road has also objected to any changes. She said that she was aware of the existing hours of parking control when she moved in, and that was fine, but any changes to hours now would be very problematic as her husband could no longer park!

MILAM is getting support from local councillors, Phil Rosenberg and James Yarde. Monica had hoped to put the issue as a deputation to the council, but was instead offered a chance to put the issue to a scrutiny committee.

CamdenParking_ft

Should parking revenue be spent on Fordwych road safety?

The Fordwych Residents Association (FRA) has been calling for road safety improvements in our area for a number of years. Residents have raised a number of issues, and we’ve requested that Camden Council take action to:

  • Stop the rat-run through our area, which runs both ways along Westbere Road – Minster Road – Fordwych Road – Mill Lane
  • Stop HGVs – and especially skip lorries – using residential streets in our area as a short cut
  • Reduce the speed of traffic in our area and enforce the 20mph speed limit
  • Make road junctions and crossings safer – especially for children walking to and from Hampstead School and for the young children attending nurseries in our area.

One of things we’ve been told by the council is that money is tight and they may not be able to afford to act on our suggestions.

However, it’s been pointed out that the council receives large sums from the sale of parking permits. The money raised by the sale of permits is meant to be ring-fenced for transport and road safety spending.

The FRA thought it would be interesting to find out how much is raised in the zones in our area: CA-P (Kilburn) & CA-Q (Fortune Green).

You can see the PDF map of the council’s parking zones here

We asked for the figures since the permit scheme was introduced (around ten years ago) – but were told the figures were only available from 2010/11. The figures include funds raised from the sale of all permits – residents, visitor, e-visitor, parking permission, business & doctors.

  • 2010/11   £774,463
  • 2011/12   £754,083
  • 2012/13   £820,251
  • 2013/14   £870,466
  • 2014/15   £807,090 (to date)

These seem like significant sums to us. We also asked for a breakdown of how the money has been spent in our area. Unfortunately, we weren’t given this information – but instead were directed to the council’s annual parking reports, which can be seen here.

Although the reports give some useful information, there is no breakdown of how the money is spent. We think the council could be a lot more open and transparent about what these funds are used for so that those paying for the various charges and permits can see where their money is going.

James Earl
Chair, Fordwych Residents Association
www.fordwych.org.uk
@FordwychRA

Little Waitrose; big lorries?

Ever since the licence application was spotted in the window of Pizza Express late last month, West Hampstead (at least on Twitter) has been abuzz with the news that Waitrose is planning to move to the neighbourhood. But what impact will another supermarket have in terms of noise and traffic, and will the fabric of the existing building be changed?

Locals’ reactions to the arrival of Waitrose have been mixed. Some have decried the appearance of yet another chain (although it’s not clear which independents are left to be wiped out), others are happy to see what is perceived as a better quality supermarket arrive, and there is a group concerned less with the corporatisation of West End Lane and more with the impact on traffic from deliveries.

This week, Waitrose submitted a slew of planning applications, which address noise, delivery and building alteration issues.

@WHampstead If it is to go ahead, it would indeed be a Little Waitrose. Thanks.
— Waitrose (@waitrose) September 12, 2013

There’s the first – it will be a Little Waitrose – the chain’s relatively new small-format version. This seems likely to be the mysterious fourth 2013 opening referred to in this Waitrose press release.

Secondly, there will be no on-site parking, which had been another concern for some. The full planning application has the relevant section.

The application proposals are for some minor alterations, a roof mounted plant room to house internal plant equipment, and new signage. The shopfront would have a powder coated aluminium fascia panel and new automatic sliding doors.

The existing shopfront will be retained, including the columns which provide an attractive frontage to West End Lane. Minor alterations are proposed in order to reflect the rebranding of the premises as Little Waitrose. Overall, the works are considered to preserve and enhance the appearance and
character of the Conservation Area.

The design approach for the remainder of the site has been to limit the number of external alterations to the building. Waitrose have worked hard to design a plant system which can be accommodated internally within the building and therefore avoid the need to provide air condenser units or other plant equipment externally. The proposed small roof mounted extension to the rear pitched roof and the louvre arrangement to the side of the building will only be visible from the side (West Cottages) elevation and will respect the character and proportions of the building.

Vehicle deliveries
Given the chaos (and ill-feeling) caused by Tesco delivery lorries, which block traffic on West End Lane, it’s not surprising that Waitrose’s delivery schedule will come under very close scrutiny.

Its submissions on the topic are reassuringly detailed, but I shall endeavour to summarise for you here:

Waitrose is suggesting that deliveries could take place using the pay & display bays either side of the fire station forecourt outside of the 8am-6.30pm pay & display hours. Naturally, it would need to ensure access to those bays outside of those hours, so is proposing loading bay restrictions for 6am-8am ad 6.30pm-8.30pm Monday to Sunday. If we look at Waitrose’s own analysis of how those bays are used now at those times, we see that occupancy rates in the mornings are: 66% at the weekends, and 84% Monday-Friday. In the evening period, the bays are occupied 100% of the time. Making them loading bays – even during this short period – will therefore have an impact on local parking.

Normally, the shop would be serviced by one 14.5m long articulated lorry arriving at 6am, It would need up to an hour to unload stock and reload empty cages.At particularly busy times of the year, such as Christmas, a second articulated lorry delivery may be required between 6.30pm and 7.30pm.

All sounds reasonable so far I guess. There is a caveat here though. This Waitrose lorry wouldn’t actually be the only delivery the shop would receive. “Ancillary servicing” would include:

  • Lenhams (crisp boxes) 12m rigid lorry – three to four times per week
  • Bunzl (cardboard) 12m rigid lorry – once a week
  • Newspapers – small van daily
  • Bread supplier – small van daily
  • Waste (food and general) – four to five times per week

Waitrose argues that it dictates when these deliveries occur, and notes that all servicing activities carried out at its Highbury Corner branch are completed by 7am every day. Whether that is viable for West Hampstead will be up for debate.

In an interesting aside, the company points out that “whilst the Council has advised that they would be minded to support the use of the parking bays as a loading bay between 7am and 8pm in principle, it is clear that Waitrose only require the loading bay to be operational for four hours per day (two hours in the morning and two hours in the evening)”

If Camden did give up these two bays it would expect Waitrose to compensate it for loss of income for two years; however, given the extent to which local businesses are clamouring for more visitor parking in West Hampstead, retaining the bays seems like it would bring far more benefit to the local economy at large. It’s surprising that Camden isn’t therefore towing a harder line on this, but reassuring that Waitrose seems minded to save the bays anyway, although it still wants those four hours a day for loading. (of course with no on-site parking, these bays would also be its nearest parking spots)

Impact on traffic
That particular stretch of road is a little tight, especially with the traffic island in the way. Waitrose therefore looked at whether buses can pass each other on West End Lane while there’s a delivery lorry parked in one of the bays. The answer appears to be yes, although it does look a little tight. Still, tight is better than stuck.

The analysis shows that the bus isable to satisfactorily manoeuvre through the Zebra crossing and past a parked Waitrose lorry without affecting the crossing or encroaching the opposing traffic lane. The diagram below is a bit hard to see, but shows a pink lorry parked outside Pizza Express and a blue northbound bus moving past it while a southbound bus travels in the other lane. It’s a tight squeeze as you can see.

There are pages more on the delivery system for those who want to get into the detail (see Appendix A).

Noise
One of the reasons Tesco delivers during the day is because local residents objected to the idea of nighttime deliveries. Noise assessments are therefore interesting. The detail here is hard to understand for the layman (me), but the main message seems to be that although the noise from deliveries would exceed accepted levels, the ambient noise at that location already exceeds accepted levels and the additional impact of Waitrose deliveries would in fact be negligible (they argue less than is actually perceptible). In other words, West End Lane is noisy at 6.30am already, and residents won’t notice the difference.

Whether this takes into account the difference between ambient noise and the sudden jolting noise of a metal cage being wheeled off a lorry isn’t clear to me.

Opening hours
Waitrose is asking for permission to open at 7am each morning (an hour
earlier than those premises are currently permitted to open). Clearly it wants to capture the rush hour pedestrians flowing down from Mill Lane and Fortune Green towards the West Hampstead stations.

Proposed floor plan (click for larger version)

One small caveat to all this – I heard from a reliable source that the leaseholder of the building also lives in one of the flats above Pizza Express. The leaseholder has to give consent for a change of use, as I understand it, so this may not all be quite as clear cut as we imagine.

Could Solent Road generate more parking fines?

Camden generates the third biggest surplus from parking fines in the country, according to a report from the RAC. But should one street in West Hampstead actually be generating more revenue for Camden?

According to the RAC, Camden’s surplus is £25 million (a shadow of Westminster’s £41.6 million). Camden’s own annual parking report from September 2012 gives a surplus figure of £24.3 million. Despite falling revenues from parking fines, expenditure has dropped even more dramatically as the borough has “continued the drive to implement efficiencies”, thus the surplus has grown substantially.

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

The surplus has to be reinvested in transport (this is a legal requirement), and just over 50% of Camden’s surplus went into discounted travel for older and disabled people last year – entirely funding the borough’s contribution to these London-wide schemes. The money can also be spent on “off-street parking” and “transport planning costs”, but neither category has received any money from the surplus in the past three years.

Source: Camden’s 2012 annual parking report

It’s clear then that it’s in councils’ interest to maximise the surplus to help fund other transport services. Motorists would no doubt wish this to be done entirely by reducing costs rather than increasing fines. However, all residents would surely expect that, as Camden’s finance chief Theo Blackwell put it, “The parking system must be based on fairness.” Interesting then to consider the case of Solent Road.

Yesterday, there was a Twitter debate about the taxi cabs, allegedly from Direct Car Services on Mill Lane, which park on Solent while they wait for jobs.

Solent Road (photo via @mustardcoleman1)

Local tweeter Nicky Coleman wrote “More cab drivers stopping residents parking on Solent Rd. Every day is the same. They block the crossroads on Solent/Glenbrook so you can’t cross. It’s a nightmare when I’m crossing with the buggy.”

Fellow local resident Jen added, “They block the double yellow lines too, making it hard to see when you’re turning out of Solent Rd.”

Another tweeter suggested that the taxis had the same right to park there as anyone else, but the problem is that this is residents parking as you can see clearly in the photo above, and their behaviour suggests that these cars do not have permits. Nicky Coleman again, “They all park up and sit in one cab chatting, and run when and if a warden shows up.”

They scarper only if a warden shows up on foot, it would seem. This morning, still on the crusade, Nicky tweeted “Traffic warden on a moped drove down Solent Road past four cabs parked up.”

It’s not unheard of for traffic wardens to be susceptible to bribes, as happened in Westminster last year. One would hope that Camden’s parking enforcement contractor has suitably stringent measures to make sure that couldn’t happen here.

Obviously, if the cars drive off when a warden shows up then it’s hard for Camden to enforce the parking restrictions although CCTV enforcement is used in some parts of the borough. There is certainly no evidence I can find that taxis are exempt from parking restrictions, with the exception of physically dropping off and picking up passengers. You can read Camden’s parking enforcement rules here [pdf].

There is also such a thing as “Dispensation to Wait”, aimed at tradespeople and that allows them to park in permit bays or on single yellow lines where restrictions allow. This costs £30 a day.

It’s worth pointing out that Camden is moving to electronic permits, so cars can be legally parked without any displayed permit in the windscreen. Be careful therefore of jumping to conclusions. Nevertheless, it would be good to get reassurance that traffic wardens, or enforcement officers as they’re now called, are actively checking minicabs when they come across them parked in permit bays, and enforcing the rule that parking on double yellow lines is never permitted.

Perhaps a tiny sliver of that £25 million surplus could go back into making sure that everyone who parks illegally pays the appropriate fine. The upshot might be an even larger surplus to spend on improving transport locally next year.

Direct Car Services has yet to respond to my request for comment.

Residents’ weekend parking in Fortune Green?

Earlier in the summer, Camden held a consultation about parking in the borough, specifically around the Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs). The findings have been published, so what changes should we expect in West Hampstead and neighbouring areas?

The scope of the consultation was to “gauge opinion on issues relating to the size, days and hours of control of controlled parking zones (CPZs) as well as on the maximum hours of stay in pay and display bays.” It was not a consultation exercise asking for views about specific proposed changes, which will be dealt separately, it was more to test the water.

First up, size. Most respondents generally thought the CPZs were the right size so there are no plans to review this further.

Residents in zone CA-P, which covers a large part of West Hampstead and Fortune Green, generally believed the weekday hours were too short and there was some interest in extending/introducing Saturday and Sunday controls, particularly in CA-P(c) )(the north-western reaches of Fortune Green

Opinion was equally split on whether the existing pay and display arrangements were suitable borough-wide. Camden’s conclusion is that there is scope to look at specific arrangements in some areas with a view to simplifying arrangements, such as changing bays with a 3-hour maximum stay to 2 or 4 hours).

Any changes to parking arrangements in Fortune Green would not happen until 2013/14.

Parking’s no joke

When I was a small boy, my grandparents’ favourite joke involved a sign outside a public toilet in a car park that said “Have you paid and displayed”. Oh how we laughed. Well, I laughed the first time, aged about six. After that I laughed politely, then just smiled, and eventually took to walking off in disgust.

I don’t own a car, and therefore the question of paying and displaying is not one that vexes me personally very often. However, for many people it’s a big issue – whether it’s paying for a residents permit or paying to park for 30 minutes so you can pop to the shops, parking is an emotive issue in these parts.

We’ve touched on it before, after Wet Fish Café owner Andre openly mused as to whether the lack of visitor parking was the single biggest problem facing local businesses.

Now is your chance to do something about it.

Camden is in the middle of its parking review focusing on the size of residents’ parking zones (careful there Grandpa), parking zone hours, and pay & display parking hours. If you have views on how your local zones will operate in future, please fill in the online questionnaire or contact ku.vo1490716064g.ned1490716064mac@w1490716064eiver1490716064.gnik1490716064rap1490716064 or 020 7974 4639 to get a paper version.

The consultation runs until 18th June and is an “open” consultation; i.e., there are no specific proposals, the council wants to collect residents’ views. Any proposed changes would then be subject to further consultation.

The West Hampstead Business Association has some quite strong views, and its chairman, David Matthews (from estate agent Dutch & Dutch) has given me permission to reprint the letter he sent Camden on behalf of the organisation.

Dear Sirs,
I write on behalf of the West Hampstead Business Association, a recently formed group set up to support and promote all businesses within the West Hampstead area. Local residents and businesses alike are making every effort to improve West Hampstead by doing all they can to create a pleasant environment and encourage good quality shops and amenities in the area. All of our members sight parking as the biggest obstacle to growing their businesses and achieving these objectives.
The most prevalent concerns of our members are:
  1. The limited number of available Pay & Display parking spaces for visitors in and around West End Lane and Mill Lane
  2. Shared Use bays being rarely available for visitors
  3. The poor provision of Loading Bays for retail units on West End Lane and Mill Lane
Attached is a petition with over 200 signatures highlighting the concern of both business operators and customers.
Clearly for Pay & Display parking to benefit local businesses they need to be in close proximity to West End Lane and Mill Lane and not shared use as these bays are very rarely available to visitors. We feel the following should therefore be implemented:
  • The loss of 8+ Pay & Display bays to form the new First Capital Connect Station should be provided elsewhere and in close proximity to West End Lane.
  • The ‘Shared Use Bays’ in Sandwell Crescent and Dennington Park Road should be ‘Pay & Display’ only as they are very rarely available to visitors.
  • Between 10am and 3pm various parts of West End Lane could accommodate additional Pay & Display parking. Clearly at peak times it needs to be clear.
  • There is currently an overprovision of Shared Use and Pay & Display bays in Alvanley Gardens. If some of these bays became ‘Permit Parking’ there would be no net loss for local residents.
We look forward to hearing that West Hampstead businesses have your support.
David Matthews
Chairman
West Hampstead Business Association

Parking changes in Camden

Camden has been postponing the public engagement part of its parking review – it was supposed to have happened in March, now apparently it wil be in May. Camden will be seeking residents’ views on parking zone days and hours of control and pay & display maximum stays. However, many other parking changes have been made already, without consultation. Here’s an overview of the major changes implemented in April. The full details are available on Camden’s parking pages.

None of these address the concerns local businesses have in West Hampstead about the lack of short-term parking in the area to attract customers during the week.

Resident parking permits

  • Residents with the lowest polluting vehicles that fall under tariff 1 will pay slightly less but the price has risen for other tariffs, with the largest increase for those with the largest and most polluting vehicles.
  • A free annual car club membership and £50 worth of drive hours for the first 150 residents willing to give up their resident permit.
  • A £10 supplement introduced for diesel vehicle owners.
  • Classic car owners will no longer be eligible for a free resident permit.
  • A £50 and £75 charge introduced for registering a 2nd or 3rd vehicle to a resident permit.
  • Persistent evaders (someone with three or more unpaid parking tickets beyond the appeal stage) will not be able to apply for a 6 month or annual resident permit.
  • The discount for electric car owners has been retained and will now also apply to electric motorcycle owners.
  • Renewably sourced electric vehicle owners will no longer be eligible for a free resident permit

Resident visitor permits

  • The tiered pricing system is being replaced with a flat rate charge of 90p per hour.
  • The charge for disabled people and the elderly (over 75) falls to 45p per hour.
  • Residents can now buy their full annual allocation in one go if they wish, rather than having to buy visitor permits every three months.
  • We will no longer sell the 30 minute visitor permits when an alternative electronic visitor permit system is ready.

Pay & Display parking

  • Camden is no longer enforcing meter feeding contraventions meaning that customers can now top up their parking session.
  • Electric vehicle owners will no longer be able to apply for the pay & display permit

Business permits

  • Camden is increasing the price of business scheme A and B annual permits to £290.
  • A 75% permit discount has been introduced for businesses with electric and bio methane vehicles.
  • Applicants will be asked to supply proof that the vehicle is insured for business purposes (where a permit is being requested on the basis that there is an operational need for a vehicle for the viability of the business).
  • The price for installing a dedicated bay on-street for business scheme A first time applicants has been increased to £1,689.71.
  • We are proposing to convert resident bays to permit bays in four zones which will give business permit holders greater flexibility when parking.

Business visitor vouchers

  • The tiered pricing system is being replaced with a flat rate charge of £2.50 per hour.
  • Restrictions that prevent businesses in certain streets from applying for business visitor vouchers will be removed.
  • The all day business visitor voucher will no longer be available.

Parking permission

  • We are merging the current Permission to Park and Dispensation to Wait into one product that will allow tradespeople to park in permit bays or on a single yellow line.
  • We have reduced the daily charge for a parking permission to £30.
  • Parking permissions for funerals and weddings will remain free of charge.

Do we need more visitor parking?

Last week, a Twitter debate raged (i.e., a few people commented for about an hour) about whether West End Lane needs more pay & display parking to encourage people from outside the area to come in to West Hampstead to shop/eat/drink, especially during the week. It’s a timely discussion, in light of Camden’s imminent parking review. Here’s how it went – more commentary after the tweets.

Afterwards, I asked André for some more background on the problem as he sees it.

“It took me years to recognise the problem, so I do see it from the locals’ point of view: the idea of more traffic, more pollution, harder for locals to park etc. I empathise with and experience that myself.

But 20 or so extra pay & displays (that exclude residents permits) would make little difference to those issues – in fact, maybe less traffic as people wouldn’t be circling for hours. But it would make a positive difference to retailers.”

At the recent West Hampstead business forum meetings that have started, it’s been a strongly voiced concern. Weekends in West Hampstead are generally busy and profitable, but weekdays can be a struggle. It’s true that the area has a high number of self-employed and home workers, but they’re not hanging out in cafés all day (unless it’s to have a cappuccino while they use the Wifi) and aside from lunchtime, it’s not that busy around the area, especially at the northern end of West End Lane away from the transport hub.

Click for full-size. NB: predates new Thameslink station on Iverson Rd

He says that customers tell him and other local business owners that they hesitate to come during the day because they can’t park. “This is one big fat feedback message that echoes around West Hampstead every day.”

“I had a meeting last week around midday, the guy called to say he’d been circling for 45 minutes and could we postpone… and he wanted to sell me something! Customers aren’t that determined. In fact, we’ve lost valued suppliers because they decided parking’s too difficult.”

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this is that the people who proclaim to support independent businesses are also those who tend to be anti-car. So how do we reconcile that? People want more people to use our local businesses so they stay, but they don’t want more traffic – either locally or even generally. West Hampstead is, of course, amazingly well connected by public transport so the arguments of those who say enough people can come in to the area that way are valid. But are they realistic? If you live further out on the Jubilee or Met lines, or along the Overground routes, do you know much about West Hampstead – would you come in and meet your friends for lunch here, or pop into the bookshop rather than going somewhere else nearer and more convenient?

Perhaps there’s an argument for targeted marketing. Lets say Camden agreed that footfall was low in some parts of the area, perhaps they could split the relevant budget between pay & display parking and funding marketing for the area in very specific places along the transport corridors so we try and boost footfall but do so using public transport. Certainly any pay & display parking would have to have restrictions that meant it matched the need without encouraging excessive car use when it wasn’t needed – at weekends for example when there’s enough footfall in West End Lane already.

There is one very different perspective: keep the cars away and footfall low and the large chains will start to lose interest/move out, which could bring rents down and make local busineses more viable. But that’s a long-term game, and at odds with the fact that West Hampstead is destined for a large increase in population over the next 10 years.

What do you think? Is there a problem at all? Is a small amount of extra parking going to make much difference? Is it worth trying to lure the residents of Elstree & Borehamwood, or Stanmore, or Acton onto the tubes and trains to visit West Hampstead? Perhaps businesses should behave very differently on weekdays and weekends to maintain profitability?

Parking and planning dominate December’s AAG

The turnout for this week’s West Hampstead & Fortune Green Area Action Group was higher than usual, with parking, planning, and local business on the agenda.

For those of you not familiar with the AAGs, they are an opportunity to meet local councillors, hear about the latest developments in the area, and for the public to share their views and ask questions.

Parking changes in Camden
The council is reviewing its parking policies. We had a quick rundown of changes over the past few years: fewer parking tickets, no clamping, allowing taxis to park on yellow lines for ATM access.

The borough is introducing cashless parking via mobile phones (meters will still accept coins), and is reviewing how its permit system will work with auto-renewal systems, e-permits and simplifying the visitor permit system with half-hour visitor permits being abolished. It was also made clear that the parking zones won’t be extended as that encourages short journeys and more parking pressure around stations.

Parking turned out to be an issue that people got quite exercised by. There was a question about all the proposed housing developments and the impact on parking in the area. All new developments are encouraged to be car free and residents will not be allowed to apply for permits on nearby streets. The view was expressed that new residents would find a way around the rules. There was also a suggestion that if there was basement parking in new developments it could then be used as public parking during the day.

There was grumbling about changes to visitor permit system and the common complaint councils face up and down the country: that they are “using motorists as cash cows”.

Parking wardens came in for flak for being too picky over permits. The representative from Camden explained that the appeals process will look at such issues. The masses weren’t impressed and the view was expressed that the permits were too complicated yet there was no process by which the public could look at getting them changed.

The parking review will also look at the details for each controlled parking zone, including on Fortune Green Road where parking for the 24hr gym is causing some local residents a degree of angst.

Planning
Next up, James Earl from the Fordwych Residents Association explained the concept of the Neighbourhood Development Plan, which you can read more about here. One local development was being displayed at the meeting – Handrail House on Maygrove Road is likely to be turned into flats. The developer is throwing money at local community centre Sidings, including astroturfing the pitch, in order to ease any objections. If plans are cleared by April then the developer will avoid the Crossrail levy that all larger residential developments in London will have to pay.

I asked whether there was any way in which we could get the Mayor’s London plan to enlarge the area designated for intensification (800 homes over the next few years) so that all the homes wouldn’t have to be clustered so tightly along the railway lines. Almost certainly a futile notion, but local councillor Flick Rea suggested that if there was ever a time to lobby politicians it was in the run up to an election and we were about to prepare for another Ken v Boris battle (and lets remember Ken lives locally so would at least be au fait with the particularities of the area). This would not be about reducing the number of new homes in West Hampstead, just spreading them out a little more. Developers themselves might not be so keen, under current planning frameworks, it’s much harder for councils to reject developments that flank railways.

Flick also mentioned that it was possible that the council offices on West End Lane (better known as the Wickes/Travis Perkins building), which are also destined to be flats, could end up as being entirely affordable housing as part of a deal with a (hypothetical) developer. So much for integrated housing projects.

Someone asked what our councillors’ own view was about the future of West Hampstead; I think suggesting that there was too much of a “our hands are tied” attitude. Councillor Keith Moffitt said that they had a clear vision, which was to preserve the villagey feel of the area, while recognising the need for new homes. One can imagine that this will translate into planners insisting that some of the larger developments lop a couple of floors off their proposals, or tone down any architectural oddities, but that any wholesale rejection of housing developments is unlikely.

I bumped into James later in the week and asked if there had been a good response after the meeting in terms of helping set up a steering group for the NDP – and it seemed like there had been. This will be a lengthy process though, and is very much going to focus on the developments that aren’t even on the table yet rather than those already under discussion.

There was a brief discussion on the new proposals for Gondar Gardens, which I’ve tackled in a separate blog. Questions were also raised as to whether there really was a need for new housing in the area, and weren’t there already too many houses on the market (the idea was firmly rebuffed by the estate agent contingent who said demand outstripped supply at the moment). And someone asked whether ownership of new flats could be restricted to Londoners or “people who need them”. You can imagine the answer.

Councillor Gillian Risso-Gill spoke briefly about the fledgling West Hampstead Business Forum and introduced David Matthews from Dutch & Dutch estate agents who has offered to chair the group. It will be interesting to see what comes out of that in the coming months.

The meeting concluded with short presentations / plugs for the financially challenged West Hampstead Community Association by Geoff Berridge, and for the financially more secure Sidings Community Centre by Sue Measures. Both run all manner of classes, so do check them out.

There were two off-agenda items that came up in final questions. The first concerned the cycle permeability scheme (allowing two-way cycle traffic on many of our one-way streets), which some locals think is a recipe for disaster. The consultation period for this has passed, but the councillors suggested that comments even now might well be considered.

The second was an impassioned plea regarding Netherwood Day Centre. This specialist Alzheimers unit just off the Kilburn High Road is teetering on the precipice again after an initial stay of execution following a high profile campaign involving local celebrities such as Ricky Gervais.

And that was that