Issue 37— December 1996
Reverse on parking charges
Jericho residents, along with groups all over the city, overwhelmingly rejected the £50 per permit parking proposal. But the issue remains wide open.
At a meeting on November 7 the City Council withdrew its support for the proposal to charge for residents' and visitors' parking. In fact the idea originated from the County Council, but by the time you read this the County should have fallen into line.
This proposal incensed Jericho residents - though the protest took a while to get going. The 40 or so people present at the regular Area Committee meeting on September 4 expressed some concern but there did not appear to be any violent objections. The protests only started in earnest when orders for the scheme were posted on lamp posts.
Nigel Hiscock of Great Clarendon Street, one of the campaign organizers, says: "It all started in the Bookbinders Arms. People were rampaging up and down the floor. We wanted to get a petition together but thought it would carry more weight coming from the Community Association". As a result Jeanne Needle, Chair of the Association, called an emergency meeting to organize distribution of leaflets and make the petition available. In just five days they gathered 663 names. In addition, the Council received 75 individual letters from Jericho residents, almost all against.
Local traders were also alarmed that draconian enforcement would drive away customers. Sandy Fleming of the Well-Being clinic in Walton Street was so provoked that she decided to form the Walton Street and Kingston Road Traders Association. This has now been registered and presented its own petition.
The revised proposal is that parking enforcement be financed from fines and the fees from on-street parking. Hopefully, this will support the same kind of patrolling as at present. This may be good for car-owners but not necessarily everyone else: previously the County used some funds from on-street parking to finance gaps in the social services and education budgets. If, however, residents decide they need more intense activity then they can ask for 'super-enforcement' - at £50 per permit. The scheme will come into force on February 3 when the County Council takes over responsibility for enforcement from the police and Oxfordshire becomes a 'Special Parking Area'.
What this means for Jericho is very much up in the air - partly because of the uncertainties of the new scheme but also because the parking situation in Jericho could deteriorate rapidly. At present there is not much of a problem with daytime commuter parking. The problems come in the evening, particularly around the restaurants and pubs.
But there are ominous signs. First, the demand for permits is rising steeply. At present there are 634 residents' parking spaces and 191 short-term public spaces. In 1992 the City Council issued 583 permits, but in 1996 it issued 865 - well in excess of the available spaces, though this includes some reissues for new cars and changes of address. Second, the plans for cutting down traffic in the centre could well displace cars out to Jericho. This would not just be during weekdays but also at weekends, particularly with the advent of Sunday trading.
Subsequently this could go one of two directions. Traders fear that wardens will enthusiastically patrol Jericho as a way of making up the income. Nigel Hiscock thinks on the other hand that enforcement could be even more limited than at present. "Then if people were dissatisfied they would have to pay for 'super-enforcement', so in the end the Council would get its own way."
Another concern is a conflict of interest between residents who want efficient (preferably free) enforcement and traders like the Phoenix Cinema who think it will harm their business. Sandy Fleming argues that more could be done to have residents and visitors share parking spaces during the day. "What we need is a balance between residents and traders".
For the time being the campaigners await the enforcement proposals which should emerge in the new year. But the key decisions will not be taken until a review of the scheme after it has been in place for 12 months.