A Case For Localism: one more shuffle sideways

An earlier blog told the story of a micro-local issue that had failed to get a resolution over at least 25 years. It seemed to me that the problem was clear and that a cheap and non-controversial solution could be easily found and quickly implemented. The vogue for localism and community involvement made me feel even more optimistic.

An email I got from a Council Officer today said:

“The issue was considered at last week’s Traffic and Transport Sub Group meeting however this issue was not prioritised as one needing imminent funding.  This does not mean that the scheme will not be considered for future funding as the group still has funding available to prioritise more schemes in the new year.

The group considered all the local traffic schemes against the Neighbourhood Partnership Priorities and also after considering technical information from our Traffic and Transport officers.

As this local issue has been raised through the NP process, we will keep this on the Neighbourhood Partnership Traffic list which will be revisited by the group every 3 months and will also be considered when future funding becomes available.

Although the Traffic and Transport Sub Group have prioritised other schemes, the final decision will be made by the Neighbourhood Committee (Elected Councillors) at the Neighbourhood Partnership meeting on 22nd January 2013.”

And in one short message I was back to where everyone else has been with this problem over the years,: fobbed off, delayed and frustrated. I wrote a reply and copied it to The Mayor, the two Ward councillors for where I live and to another Councillor who has had an interest in transport and in welfare of the elderly. I wrote this:

I am afraid that the Traffic and Transport Sub Group meeting’s failure to prioritise the issue of access along The Fosseway is a great disappointment. Given the strength of the case for action, the direct and daily problems  experienced by the 50 signatories to our petition, and the 25 years of delay in resolving the problem I believe that the matter should now be brought urgently to senior members of the council and the Mayor.

Your reference to a future meeting of a Neighbourhood Partnership meeting is not helpful. As I have already pointed out, such deflections have already wasted the time and energy of all those who have been trying to achieve a modest improvement for residents of and visitors to Fosseway Court over a very long period. I note that in another email received today that:

“the Neighbourhood forums will not be taking place in January. We are currently reviewing the Partnership & Forum dates with the chairs of the Partnership and Neighbourhood Forum meetings and we will circulate the dates for next year very soon.”

Such changes and uncertainties have been another of the ways in which our case has been put aside in the past while no substantive arguments against the request have been communicated.

The inhabitants and owners of 30 retirement flats deserve a positive resolution to their problem in the very near future and the cost to Bristol City Council is likely to be very small.

I am forwarding this email to The Mayor’s office, to Clifton Councillors Janke and Blythe and to Jon Rogers who has had an interest in the welfare of older people in Bristol and in transport issues. I hope that they will be able to take a view on the matter and agree that action is long overdue.

Many thanks for keeping me in touch.

A reply came quickly form Councillor Trevor Blythe:

Dear Sam,

I would make the following points:

The Fosseway is used by residents not only from The Fosseway but also Saville Pl, Clifton Rd and Richmond Terrace. A reduction of parking places will bring considerable inconvenience to a wide area.

The Fosseway is but one of many roads in Clifton and the wider Bristol area that are narrow, are we going to reduce parking in all of them?

With cars parked on both sides it is perfectly possible for an ambulance to access Fosseway Court as I have witnessed, remember we get a dustcart down the road to Fosseway Court every week.

If pressed we will produce a petition which will I fear swamp the number of signatories on yours.

Regards

My reply was as follows:

Dear Trevor

Thanks for your quick reply.

I would counter as firmly as I can. This is not a parking problem. It is a unique problem of access. There are instances of roads very close by where full access has been made possible, quite rightly, by restricting parking on one or both sides of the highway. See the photographs in my blog.

Many Bristol roads are narrow and many of them have managed to get by with single track access but none of them, as far as I can tell, have a dead end so far from the entrance with so many flats and so many vulnerable people (and their support services) dependent on the inadequate access.

Parking is not the main purpose of the highway and should never take precedence over the primary purpose of access, however many people might want to sign a petition. People have the right to use a vehicle and a corresponding duty to drive and park it in ways that do not interfere with other people’s rights of access. A local authority has a responsibility to protect the few and make wise decisions about priorities. As you know from your own situation, a right of access to your own property (however infrequently you might need it) is more important than and takes precedence over the opportunity that others might want to take in restricting it.

In the case of The Fosseway even a couple of passing places along one side would enable care workers to visit their clients with fewer delays and less anxiety. The status quo is simply not a sensible or reasonable state of affairs.

Your comments about ambulances and dustcarts are not strictly true. While it is true to say that they often do get all the way along there have been several instances where they have been unable to do so. Old people have been wheeled the full length of the Fosseway to get between flat and vehicle and vehicles have had to be moved to allow a fire tender to get access to Fosseway Court. Dustcarts do find their way blocked from time to time and do have to make return visits, sometimes on another day. These are not common events, but they should never happen at all when a simple remedy is available and when there is no specific need for so much parking in one road.

Yours sincerely

Sam Saunders

The most interesting thing about this final exchange is the Councillor’s honest and open expectation that people who own houses and flats in a district have a rightful expectation of being able to park their cars on a road close by, regardless of other residents’ need for safe access and irrespective of the parking prohibitions already imposed on their own streets. In effect, 50 people asking for help can be trumped by 100 people saying it doesn’t suit them to allow the help.

In a more rational world a resident in a crowded and desirable city location with a car but no garage or hard standing to keep it on should expect to pay for an alternative rather than insist that access on narrow public roads should be restricted in the interests of their own free parking. As it stands the motor car seems to make monkeys of all of us.