February 2017: A more up-to-date article on local parking now exists here
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Car parking is a growing problem in several parts of Queen Edith’s, most notably in the roads nearest to Addenbrooke’s and in the roads opposite Hills Road Sixth Form College. In Rathmore Road, Hartington Grove, Marshall Road and Blinco Grove, pavements are regularly blocked and gridlock can ensue as two-way traffic tries to fit into a single carriageway. One solution might be a residents’ parking scheme, as found in several other parts of the city (see footnote); an informal survey of these roads by our local councillors found considerable support for the idea and an even larger desire to find out more. So on 8 February, Queen Edith’s county councillor Amanda Taylor organised a public meeting to discuss the subject. She was joined by local city councillors George Pippas and Tim Moore, county council customer services team leader Nicola Gardner and over 60 residents from the area.
Mrs Gardner started by emphasising that there are both advantages and disadvantages to a residents’ parking scheme, and it would be important for everyone to fully understand these before making a decision. There are many considerations, but if there is support – and if the scheme is financially viable – the council is always willing to undertake the necessary feasibility study, followed by a formal consultation process and finally statutory confirmation before goes ahead.
It was mentioned that the council’s parking policy is under review, but mainly in the context that costs may not be the same as current schemes (£52-£81 a year), with a one-off installation cost. However, this rather underplayed the fact that there’s a potentially sweeping county-wide parking review taking place over the next two years, starting with a review of residents’ parking policies in general, scheduled for this summer, which will feed into a full revision of the council’s parking policy by the middle of next year. You can read the current discussions here and the Cambridge News report here (as ever, the Cambridge News website is almost unusable nowadays, thanks to the deluge of badly-loading adverts, but it’s worth a try).
Mrs Gardner said that the county council’s highways project team would always attempt to find a balance between the needs of residents and the needs of the community. By this, she was referring to local shops, schools and the library needing nearby on-street parking for users. However, it’s often not possible to satisfy everyone’s needs, and parking availability for residents can actually be reduced by such a scheme. One former Mill Road resident in the audience confirmed this was the case. For example, at present, a road might have cars parked both sides, up on the pavement, and have room for just a single lane of traffic down the centre of the road. Under a formal residents’ parking scheme, the pavement parking would be eliminated (something many residents desire), which would mean that there would be room for parking (entirely on the road) just on one side of the street, and the other side would have to be double-yellow-lined.
Another obstacle might be the financial viability of the scheme. It has to pay for itself, which requires sufficient residents to pay for sufficient permits, as well as the setup costs. This is not always a given.
Kicking the can down the road
Questions from the floor were numerous, and touched on some of the general problems with residents’ parking, including the undoubted fact that it kicks the can down the road. One solution to this might be city-wide residents’ parking, as is being controversially introduced in Bristol by a mayor brave enough to take on drivers. Whether Cambridge follows suit will be down to the parking review already mentioned, but without a single authority, it has to be unlikely.
Problems reported by residents, apart from the congestion, included impassable pavements, excess litter from drivers, and cars damaged by bad parking. In many cases, it’s not hard to jump to the conclusion that the primary culprits are the students of Hills Road Sixth Form College, who are officially not supposed to drive to the site. However, we all know that they do, in great numbers. That said, if it wasn’t them it would be someone else. With so much construction in the area, there are many builders’ vehicles; houses are becoming more occupationally dense (an old lady with no car passes on and her house is quickly turned into four flats with at least four cars); and new developments such as Cambridge Assessment appear to have a tiny number of on-site car parking spaces for the size of their workforce.
Changing the character of the area
The audience heard that other residents’ parking schemes have allowances for carers and medical staff in place. Metered parking is not mandatory within such schemes, but there needs to be something for the community. One resident warned that such a scheme will change the character of the area, and there’s no going back. For example, our library is a big asset, whose existence is supported by the number of users. If visitors are put off by inadequate local parking, it could be in jeopardy.
Mrs Gardner said that the next step would be to work with the council’s highways team to produce a plan for consultation. They would want a clearly defined area, which she suggested should include the bordering roads of Cherry Hinton Road and Hills Road, perhaps even including developments like The Marque. Many members of the audience thought this was daft, as the scheme would have little to do with those roads, which have almost no on-street parking anyway. Their inclusion would probably make the plan stillborn. Mrs Gardner hoped that the council could start on a consultation document in April this year and have it distributed as soon as May. She emphasised the need to ensure as many people as possible complete it, especially permanent residents.
We’ll cover the issue as it develops here on Queen Edith’s Online. If you have anything to add, please make full use of our comments section below. If you want to write to your city and/or county councillors, this site is a good place to do it. I’d also recommend talking to acquaintances in other parts of the city about their experiences of residents’ parking. A list of current schemes is below. Again, we’d love to read what they say – the comments section below is all yours.
Footnote: Existing Residents’ Parking Schemes in Cambridge