The Council was first asked to consult on a 'Permit holder only/shared bay' parking scheme at a meeting in the Town Hall on 14th May 2012. A wide grouping of residents – including Neighbourhood Watch – met with councillors and Council officers to request this. The meeting was chaired by the then Cabinet member for Transport, Nicholas Botterill, who was about to become Conservative leader of the Council.
He immediately tried to block the proposal from residents, claiming that, if the Council introduced 'permit holder only bays', sometimes referred to as 'resident only bays', they would have to turn all the other bays into exclusive 'pay to park bays’, something residents would not want, because it would leave them with less parking space.
If true, this would have ruled out what residents were requesting.
The trouble is, it was untrue.
There is no such requirement. The Council is completely at liberty to introduce 'Permit holder only bays' alongside 'Shared bays', something confirmed at the same meeting by Mahmood Siddiqi, the Director of Transportation and Highways for both Hammersmith and Fulham and Kensington.
In closing the meeting in May 2012, Nicholas Botterill promised a follow up meeting, as soon as his officers had had a chance to consider the request.
No such meeting ever materialised. After considerable pressure, five months later, in October 2012, the Council responded instead with a statement on why it could not offer the scheme which had been requested. Astonishingly, this repeated the same untruth. It said (referring to ‘permit holder only bays’ as ‘resident only’ and ‘pay to park bays’ as ‘visitor only’):
If we were to set up a resident-only parking scheme, up to 8,000 shared-use parking bays would have to be changed into visitor-only parking bays. This would be necessary to provide reasonable access to premises from the public highway. The overall effect of this would be a decrease in the number of parking spaces available to residents.
This was – and remains – untrue.
Under considerable pressure to hold a further meeting, the Council eventually invited residents – of its own choosing – to a new meeting on 10th January 2013.
There was an even wider grouping of residents present at this meeting and – no doubt to the Council's discomfort – it unanimously pressed the Council to offer Zone J 'Permit holder only/shared bay' scheme.
The Council never responded to this request.
The leader of one residents' group discovered that the minutes of the meeting did not even report what had been requested.
She wrote to the Cabinet Member for Transport, Victoria Brocklebank-Fowler (who had approved the minutes) expressing her concern:
'I want to put on record that the meeting notes you attached are an absolute fallacy and totally unrepresentative of the key request of residents. Every resident, business and church group represented at that meeting stressed that Residents Only bays were only acceptable with the rest of the bays remaining shared and under the existing time and days arrangement in the zone. The notes make absolutely no mention of this; as a result, every subsequent comment is out of context. As a result, the notes are a total misrepresentation of views of the groups represented.
We are incredulous that a public body can take such a biased and one sided view when recording a meeting; notes that totally missed the point of what everyone was saying. I hope the meeting was recorded by Rev Ecclestone and we can prove how wrong the notes are when it becomes necessary. In terms of public accountability/honest behaviour/morality I find it unbelievable.
For the record, I wish this officially logged as an objection to the meeting notes and to say they are unrepresentative of the meeting that was held and as a result, the consultation which made residents choose between either shared or residents only bays was totally against all the wishes of the groups represented at that meeting in January and has the potential to do tremendous harm to our area.'
Receiving no proper response, she wrote a second time:
I must insist that the notes of the meeting are altered to reflect that all the residents, businesses and religious groups present requested Shared Bays continue as now and that some preference was given to residents through a relatively small number (30 to 50%) of Residents Only bays. The notes as they stand suggest that we requested Residents Only bays with no mention of Shared Bays and this is totally misleading. At the meeting most said they thought the Shared Bays was a good system but needed to be tweaked to enable some priority to be given to residents. There is no mention of this.
I remain extremely worried that a public body can make such an inaccurate note of a meeting; a body that is democratically elected and officers that are paid for by rate payers. To miss out about Shared Bays when it was mentioned so often by those who were invited to attend must have been intentional. It strikes me the current Council's view of the need to develop profit centres to reduce the rates is totally dominating the actions of Officers and Councillors and when this leads to misleading and untruthful notes of meeting this is extremely worrying in terms of public accountability. I remain deeply shocked about the false notes taken of the meeting and would like you assurance that these have now been altered to reflect the true position.
While ignoring residents requests the Council then came up with two more reasons why, it said, it could not offer them what they wanted.
It said that such a scheme would open the Council to challenge from 'pay-to-park' drivers 'who could not differentiate between the two types of bay'.
This is also untrue: the Department of Transport has strict rules on the signing of bays, which removes any such possibility.
The Council also claimed that the Department for Transport 'discouraged having longer control hours operating in 'Permit holder only bays', than in the rest of the parking zone'.
This is also untrue. The Department of Transport categorically denied the Council's claim, saying that it could not understand how it could have been made.
It added that its view was the very opposite, that the spread of 'permit holder only/shared bay' provision reflected the growing flexibility with which many authorities were tackling competing demands for parking space, something it welcomed.
Later in 2013, the Council came up with its plans for a new consultation
It offered extended hours and said it would take voting into account on a street by street basis, facilitating the setting up of sub zones with such hours.
Astonishingly, as an alternative, it offered not the ‘permit holder only/shared bay’ scheme, which had been requested, but instead, the 'permit holder only/exclusive pay to park bay’ scheme which nobody had requested and which the Council itself had warned residents about: the pattern of provision.
In 2013 Zone J residents voted against both the Council's extended hours proposal as well as the Council's 'Permit holder only/exclusive pay-to-park' scheme.
Yet in 2015 the new Labour administration, in yet another Zone J consultation, put both these options forward again. Why?
Earlier it had said that it would consult on the option which had been requested, ('permit holder only/shared-bays') but failed to do so. Why?
Residents emphatically rejected the notion of either extended hours or of splitting Zone J into two.
The Council then misrepresented the results to impose both. Why?
In five years, the Council – both Conservative and Labour – has failed to come up with one credible reason for its failure to consult on 'Permit holder only/shared-bays' or for its continued insistence on only offering, in one form or another, extended control hours.
This makes possible only one conclusion: it is not interested in helping residents, but merely in raising as much cash through parking as it can, whatever the damage this does.
It is a betrayal of local democracy and something which we all need to oppose.