Conspiracy or incompetence:  Wrongly installed parking restrictions hit Eltham businesses and residents

By | March 19, 2023

As an Eltham Councillor I was always proud of the way Charlie Davis and I worked to ensure that parking restrictions were only imposed where they were supported by the majority of residents or businesses.  As I tried to stop outside the Tesco on my way home from work this week I reflected how quickly things change – previously it was hard to find a space but now there were no cars in the bays.  I pulled up suspiciously and on further investigation found that the Council had installed new parking restrictions meaning you had to pay if you wanted to stop even just to pop in and pick up a few items.  Clearly customers had voted with their feet (or vehicles) and stopped using the Tudor Parade on Well Hall Road which I expect will have long term effects in the future. 

Why do I now have to pay to stop outside the Tudor Parade?

The obvious answer is that the Council have now installed a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) which states that I have to pay to park from 9am to 5.30pm.  However, this is not what Greenwich Council advertised when they informed residents, businesses and even the new Councillors what they were planning on doing.  The map below outlines their proposed plans:-

The map of the Controlled Parking Zones for this area which was published at the meeting

You can see here that the parking bays on the service road, on the western side of Well Hall Road and along Kidbrooke Lane should all have 30 minutes free parking before you have to pay, but the new CPZ signs make no mention of this. 

This change is simply deceitful as when Cllrs Williams and Merrill asked for this decision to be reviewed everyone in the room seemed to be under the impression that there would be free parking for 30 minutes to ensure people could stop briefly at the shops.  Cllr Merrill (an ex-Cabinet Member for Transport) made clear that this was needed to support the shops and one of the Labour Cllrs on the review panel noted that the 30 min free period meant that no further discussion was needed on this topic.  As Conservative Group Leader Cllr Matt Hartley mentioned the ‘churn’ in customers at this location, the Council’s Officers nor the new Cabinet Member thought it appropriate to mention the fact that the map might be wrong.  Despite including the map in the papers Councillors considered for the review meeting it seems that there was no intention of protecting the shops on the Tudor Parade – in fact we could describe it as a wilful blindness to the impact the charges to stop for even one minute might have on the shops on the Tudor Parade or their customers. My personal feeling is that this is more of a conspiracy than incompetence– the people in charge of introducing the scheme included misleading maps in their report and failed to correct their mistake when Councillors spoke to the importance of brief visits to this parade of shops being supported with 30 minutes of free parking.   

“I understand the first 30 minutes are free”

Cllr Nick Williams, Overview and Scrutiny call-in sub-committee member, november 2022

Who is the vandal responsible for damaging all the CPZ signs in exactly the same way?

On the other hand, the repainting of every single CPZ sign which had been installed along this area with some attractive grey paint this week reeks of wonderful incompetence.  The signs before Thursday and afterwards are pictured are below.

So someone (I think we can safely assume it is the Council) decided to scrub out every reference to paying at a machine as I assume as they hadn’t actually installed any! 

Of course the impact of this incompetence is going to be on those people who are classified as ‘digitally excluded’ – if you don’t have a phone or an ability to pay on it then you simply won’t be able to park anywhere along this section of Well Hall Road or the service road.  The issue of digital exclusion is being discussed in Parliament and the irony is that here in Eltham it is being made worse by the Council’s liberal application of grey spray paint.   

For me this is not a conspiracy just plain, old fashioned incompetence – no one would have actually planned to make and install inaccurate signs just so they could spray paint over sections of them!

Some concluding thoughts

At the recent review meeting Cllr Merrill described the purpose of the bays in this area to support shops as the ‘high turnover’ of shoppers just needed to ‘pop in and go’.  The Councillors on the review committee assumed that the 30 minute free parking described on the maps was part of the plan and no one corrected them (as the actual written reports had different details).  So the decision to install this scheme without the 30 minute free parking condition is a betrayal, not just of residents or businesses who thought the plans had been abandoned but of the Labour Councillors for the area who were lied to about what was happening here. 

To make it worse, failing to put in payment machines means that people without phones or online bank accounts simply won’t be able to park here increasing the digital exclusion felt particularly by many older members of our community.  It is almost worse that this exclusion is the result of incompetence – its almost exclusion by stupidity. 

When, as Cabinet Member for Transport, Cllr Merrill decided not to introduce this scheme previously it was at least partly as it did not work for the community.  By reversing Eltham resident Cllr Merrill’s decision the Woolwich based Council is showing a complete disregard for local residents and businesses – the fact they misled people about what they were introducing and then did it so badly our signs now have grey spray paint on them just makes it worse.

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