Croydon’s secret tax on car parking that divides the borough

Pay and display parking signCROYDON COMMENTARY: For a town that has built itself around the demands of the motor car, parking the vehicles is an ever-growing problem, and Croydon Council has yet to find the right, or fair, way of dealing with it, CHARLOTTE DAVIES says

Eric Pickles, the Secretary of State for communities and local government: “Municipal parking profit shows why we need to review and rein in unfair Town Hall parking rules. The law is clear that parking is not a tax or cash cow for Town Hall officers.”

Last month, the High Court ruled against Barnet council’s move to raise the cost of residents’ parking permits. It was a landmark victory for campaigners.

Mrs Justice Lang ruled that the council acted unlawfully when it increased permit costs to generate more money for road maintenance.

The RAC Foundation has presented some interesting results for the “surplus” that local councils make on parking charges. No real surprises that Croydon is ranked in the top – or worst – 25 per cent of the 359 local authorities surveyed, or that their takings from parking charges have increased by almost 90 per cent year on year.

South Croydon Community Association grew out of the Croydon Residents Against Parking Plans – or CRAPP, as they called themselves with all due irony – a campaign hosted on the www.croydoncouncil.com website. In 2002 and again in 2011, CRAPP fought off plans brought forward by our council apparently on our behalf to impose excessive parking controls on all the CPZs – the Central Parking Zones – of Croydon.

Parking  ticket machineThe 2011 campaign arose following one of the current council’s most shameful attempts to divide the borough by trying to impose high-charging controls on just the northern part of the borough, while applying few, if any, such restrictions on the southern part of the borough.

The residents knew then and warned the council that parking restrictions were killing off businesses in Croydon.

It was not until a government-sponsored celebrity, Mary Portas, came along and said exactly the same thing that anyone at the Town Hall woke up to the incredible damage that excessive parking charges are having on high street businesses.

Parking charges across Croydon are now an unequal mess. Some parades of shops are favoured with 30 minutes’ free parking. Some have no parking restrictions whatsoever. And others, like the small shops in South End, face some of the most expensive charges in Croydon.

Residential areas are even worse, with some streets where the residents want to benefit from controls having just one-hour restrictions. Other streets have restrictions from 9am to 5pm. Yet others are hit by restrictions from 8am to midnight – which is madness for a residential road.

This all creates an unequal and unfair secret taxation system for Croydon residents and businesses. It is no way to build an efficient, effective community.

  • Charlotte Davies is the chair of the South Croydon Community Association
  • If you have a news story about life in or around Croydon, a residents’ or business association or local event, please email us with full details at inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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About insidecroydon

News, views and analysis about the people of Croydon, their lives and political times in the diverse and most-populated borough in London. Based in Croydon and edited by Steven Downes. To contact us, please email inside.croydon@btinternet.com
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8 Responses to Croydon’s secret tax on car parking that divides the borough

  1. Retail businesses in South Croydon are not being killed off by a lack of parking: they are dying because the communities for whom they were intended – the housewives who walked to the shops every day from nearby streets – no longer shop like that; hence the demise of the butcher, the greengrocer and the dairy.

    Everything has changed except the approach of lifestyle retailers who think a low rent is the key to commercial success and delude themselves that if customers have a half-hour’s free parking, they will all flock back to neighbourhood shops.

    They won’t, but landlords might see any parking concession as an added amenity and raise rents.

    Just for the record: the key to retail success is high footfall; that’s why retail space on the ground floor of the Whitgift Centre cost more than anywhere else in the borough. In retailing, as in so much else, you get what you pay for.

    If Hammersfield in central Croydon follows the pattern set in Stratford and White City it will provide and maintain its own car parks, over which it will exert rigorous price control. It will charge relatively modest admission, recovering any additional costs from its tenants as part of their service charges.

  2. I do not agree David. South End has a lot of small businesses which need short-term loading and unloading – it is really difficult for people to get in and out to pick-up everything from party platters to bikes to hi-fi equipment to musical instruments. It is incomprehensible to me why South End should not have a free 30 minute like most of the other shopping parades in Croydon.
    The residents have asked butchers and the like to open branches around South End and they have all cited the lack of parking as the reason why they stay away.

  3. Charlotte: If collection by car is an important facet of a business in South End it should re-locate, as soon as possible, to somewhere where its customers/suppliers can park with ease and preferably free of charge.
    Or it should set up a collection/delivery service of the kind operated by on-line retailers.
    Staying where it is and complaining about parking restrictions is not a serious business option.
    I suspect your requests for concessions are falling on deaf ears because the road is already so congested.
    The complicated junction at the Swan & Sugarloaf has been a must-to-avoid for rat-running motorists for decades. (Long before Tesco arrived!)
    Businesses at the Coombe Cross end of the road have access to a substantial car park at Spice’s Yard – or isn’t that close enough for some customers?
    The whole of South End requires a comprehensive traffic management plan, but Transport for London, or whoever is responsible, has consistently failed to deliver. Maybe it believes that someone will object, whatever it suggests.

    • The South End situation demonstrates how influential planning by the local authority can be.

      By granting planning permission to Tesco at the Swan and Sugarloaf for its parking spaces – at the expense of the traffic flow on that busy junction – Croydon Council has handed Tesco a significant trading advantage over the established independent traders, who are denied the benefits of any short-stay free bays.

      Makes you wonder whose side the council is on… local traders, or big business?

    • Arfur Towcrate says:

      Croydon council have been “consulting” about their plans to make South End narrower to calm traffic and put in more parking bays.

      The Spices Yard car park is set to reduce in capacity/ disappear as a school will be built on the site and that of a redundant adjoining business.

  4. Parking prices are as much about demand management as anything else. “Buy land, they’re not making it any more”, as somebody once said. Too cheap, it all fills up & you’ll be driving around for ages looking for somewhere to park. Too expensive, and you’ll go and do your shopping somewhere else or on the internet. On-street parking (as distinct from loading) on high streets – storing one person’s private property in the middle of the high road while they disappear for however long – is a rather inefficient use of valuable space when you consider its other possible uses (market stalls, pedestrian zones, safe cycle lanes). So even if the council gets the price of parking right, the rich will complain that it “takes too long to find a space”, and the poor will complain that they “can’t afford to park there”.

    By all means the council should provide 15-minute or 30-minute loading bays where they’re most needed, and disabled spaces for those that need them, but here’s another kicker. To get the most boost for traders (which is the object of the exercise here), you need to ensure a high turnover in those spaces – overstayers mean another potential customer has nowhere to stop. The only effective way of ensuring that? Hefty fines for those who refuse to play by the rules. And we all know how popular _that_ is. Truly the council can’t win!

    • Would any law-abiding resident really object if the council employed traffic enforcement officers (rather than contracted traffic warden commission-driven guns-for-hire) who acted in a fair and reasonable manner?

      Of course there’s an inconvenience if you have parked and your allocated time is about to run out – but if I was in a 30min free parking bay, I think I’d try to respect those conditions, especially if I knew that I might face a £60 fine.

      Trouble is, we seem to be confronted with parking enforcement of one of two extremes: either there is none at all, so that illegal, inconsiderate and sometimes dangerous parking – on yellow lines, double-parking, on street corners – goes unpoliced; or the parking Nazis are out in force, slapping £60 fine tickets for the smallest of misdemeanors, even on residents with parking permits who have parked outside their own home.

  5. South End is one of the strategic approach roads to central Croydon and is likely to be subjected to the Mayor of London’s multi-million pound makeover.

    I wonder if Croydon Council’s “consultations” have included sharing with Boris’s people its plans to make the road even more congested by adding additional parking spaces for lifestyle traders?

    There have been various plans to develop Spice’s Yard for decades: none has yet come to fruition; in the meantime the car park remains.

    I wondered whether team Boris might dust down a plan mooted many years ago to create a huge one-way system linking Purley Cross to Roman Way, using Pampisford Road, Hailing Park Road and Bramley Hill on the way in and Southbridge Road and Brighton Road on the way out, with contra bus lanes on both sections.

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