PERHAPS no issue has done more to upset the harmony of Oxford’s suburbs than parking.
The rolling out of Oxfordshire County Council’s controlled parking zones has led to protests, packed public meetings and frayed nerves.
At the end of this month, a new controlled parking zone – or CPZ – will be introduced in Cutteslowe, North Oxford, after being in the pipeline for around two years.
Meanwhile the people of Cowley and Iffley Fields are calling on the county council to take action to rid their streets of those meddling cars.
Maybe the most notorious example of community disharmony caused by the introduction of CPZs was in East Oxford, where it took the county council more than five years to actually implement its proposals.
One of the most contro-versial aspects of CPZs is that their critics claim they don’t actually solve the problem – they simply push it to nearby streets.
Commuters and shoppers who last week parked in one street seem to have no qualms in moving to a different street across the road the next week.
This is what residents in Iffley Fields are struggling to come to terms with as they carry out surveys into the increasing amount of commuter parking in their area.
And residents say it is down to the introduction of the Magdalen North CPZ in late 2012, which has simply pushed the parking problem across Iffley Road.
In Cowley, a similar survey is being carried out because of the increasing problem of people leaving their cars in the Barns Road area and then catching the bus into Oxford.
Dr Amar Latif, of Warwick Street, Iffley Fields, says the county council’s long-term goal seems to be the roll-out of CPZs across Oxford.
He said: “We have done a residents’ survey which shows that everyone has recognised that there has been an increase in parking problems since the scheme across the road was introduced.
“It is becoming unbearable because roads are being blocked off and people who live here cannot find spaces to park. For the elderly and people with children, parking reasonably close to home is quite important.
“The council has been quite rigid in what it is prepared to do but each area has its own local differences and what we need to do is make sure the issues in our area are addressed.
“Otherwise you’re trying to get a round peg into a square hole.”
A CPZ can divide a community. On one hand, it can free up parking spaces for people who actually do live in the area. On the other, the charges can be seen as unfair, with a knock-on effect on businesses.
Hertford Street barber Dennis Pratley, of Dennis W Pratley, was part of the successful campaign against the Magdalen Road South CPZ.
It was shelved last year.
He said: “It was one size fits all and the council didn’t want to listen to what the residents wanted. It would have affected everybody’s business.”
According to latest census figures, there are more than 51,600 cars on the road in Oxford city.
Some areas of Oxford – which is the only part of the county where CPZs are used – are now almost completely covered by residents-only parking restrictions.
One of these areas is Headington, where there are some six CPZs already in force.
Patrick Coulter lives in Headington West B and is chairman of community group Headington Action. He says most people in the area are pretty happy with them because they put a stop to commuter parking.
He said: “There are some parts of Headington where they don’t have them, in Headington Quarry, because they have resisted but certainly around the hospitals we are quite happy with them, otherwise we wouldn’t be able to park.
“They were introduced about 10 or 12 years ago and the pressure on parking was just starting to grow.”
County council leader Ian Hudspeth said: “I think we will always try to work with people to see what options are available, but ultimately if there is a parking issue there have to be restrictions to prevent parking by non-residents and that allow residents to park there.
“A CPZ seems to do a good job and it is very difficult to find a solution that prevents parking and at the same time protects the ability of residents to park.
“If people have suggestions we would always listen to them. I have been through many CPZ processes when I was cabinet member for transport and I would listen to concerns but it is difficult to get a balance.”
He denied that the council was trying to roll CPZs out across Oxford: “The council’s policy is to try and find parking solutions that best suit the local area.
“If you look back at the history of CPZs they are rolled out because there have been parking problems in a particular area.”
Protesters demonstrating against the Magdalen Road CPZ plans outside County Hall in 2012
The story of the three controlled parking zones in East Oxford sums up how controversial these measures can be.
It took Oxfordshire County Council five years from when a proposal was first put forward to when an agreement was reached and parking restrictions were implemented.
A plan for a Magdalen Road CPZ was first put forward by the county council in 2007 and it split the community in two.
In response to public concern the county council decided splitting the community in two was the only way forward – and created the Magdalen Road North and Magdalen Road South zones.
A series of consultations and budget cuts delayed the planned CPZ, but the Magdalen Road North CPZ was eventually approved in October 2012 at the same time as the Divinity Road CPZ ,which had become tied up in this controversy.
When they were approved there were protests outside County Hall and the meeting was filled with campaigners. Plans for the Magdalen Road South CPZ were put off because of public protests and the county council decided to wait six months before making a decision.
In November 2013 – six years after the proposals were first put forward – the county council agreed there was “little demand” for a CPZ south of Magdalen Road and shelved the scheme.
Within a controlled parking zone, cars must be parked in marked bays – unless they are parked in drives.
Only people who live within a zone can buy a permit – at a cost of £50 a year.
The number of permits a property can buy is limited but varies from zone to zone.
Residents can also use visitors’ permits, which last for 24 hours, but the number available to each property is capped at 50.
The first 25 are free but the second set of 25 costs £16.
Any cars that are caught parked illegally are issued with a £60 ticket,reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days.
Protesters handing in a petition to the city council against a parking scheme in 1996
At the moment the only controlled parking zones in the county are in Oxford. They are:
- Central Area A (between St Giles and Beaumont Street)
- Central Area B (around Frideswide Square)
- Central Area C (north of High Street)
- Central Area D (west of St Giles)
- Cutteslowe (being introduced this month)
- Divinity Road
- East Oxford
- Elms Road
- Girdlestone Road
- Headington Central
- Headington Northeast
- Headington Quarry
- Headington West A (north of London Road)
- Headington West B (south of London Road)
- Jericho s Magdalen North
- Marston South
- Norham Manor
- North Oxford
- North Summertown
- South Oxford
- Walton Manor
- West Oxford
- The Lakes
The following zones are around the Kassam Stadium and only enforced on Sundays and match days:
- Blackbird Leys West
- Brake Hill s Fry’s Hill
- Minchery Farm
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