A lot has happened in Dulwich over the last few months. The interim report on the results of the East Dulwich Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) Consultation showed that a substantial majority of residents to the east of Lordship Lane were against the plan, while a small majority of those on the west side were for it. The Council is now proposing a compromise solution for the area bounded around Melbourne Grove, with no impact on Lordship Lane. A very well attended Dulwich Community Council meeting on 27 April was generally critical of the report and the compromise - and it will be interesting to see what the Council does. Those who have a CPZ already, such as the North Dulwich Triangle, do find it hard to understand why East Dulwich residents remain content with a situation where it can be very difficult to find a parking space in one’s road, let alone outside your house, but it would appear that the decision has been made.
Almost at the same time the Council came up with a plan to charge for parking in parks. While there is some dispute as to whether the Council had trailed this plan beforehand, the fact is that to most residents it came as a total surprise. The Council have admitted that is a revenue raising exercise following further reductions in their Central Government grant - and there is no question that the Council have had to be more innovative in raising money (witness their much less controversial plans to charge an annual fee for taking away garden waste) but the implications of the decision could be quite serious for local residents who live near the parks - they will find more cars parking in their roads to avoid the charge. And it will impact on people who visit the park from other parts of the Borough.
A well-advertised public meeting on the subject in Belair Park on 13 April raised some interesting points. For those who live within walking distance of Belair ie most local residents, paying for parking would not be a problem, they wouldn’t need to. There was considerable scepticism over the Council’s view that the car park was extensively used by commuters, but the real impact was on parents who used the car park to drop of their children at either the Dulwich Prep Nursery or Oakfield School - and this brings up the point that, with so many private schools in the area, many of them depend on children coming to them from outside our area, and they will be driven here.
An article in the Times on 22nd April under the heading ‘School-run parents jam up roads for everyone’ confirmed what everyone in Dulwich already knows, that car traffic increases substantially during school terms. It quoted from a report that said in some areas 25% of the cars on the road in the morning were involved in the school run and that car journeys could take 50% longer. Yet when traffic restrictions and parking controls to reduce traffic levels are suggested, residents object strongly.
Councillors tell us that, when they knock on doors, one of the main complaints from younger families is that the Council is not doing enough about car pollution. The recent Bessemer Grange street closure experiment is a great start but it is a one off - how do you deal with the schools in Dulwich Village which are located on a main road? While the planned Ultra Low Emission Zone (ULEZ) and electric cars may or may not provide a partial solution in the future, as things stand at the moment the only way to cut pollution is to reduce the number of cars and vans and, by implication, limit individual choice. Is that politically acceptable, probably not?