There’s a political cartoon from an old newspaper I came across recently. A politician is out knocking doors, in preparation he is working through arguments in his head about the big party political issues of the day. But, when the door finally opens, he is instead confronted with a barrage of local issues around bin collections and dog mess. Clearly politicians don’t get to decide what matters locally, voters do.
One issue towers above all others on the doorstep, it fills councillors’ mailbags and we are challenged on it in public meetings: parking. Crawley was built when few households were expected to own a car, certainly not two or three, and as a result no one planned for the town’s parking needs.
It’s an obvious source of frustration for people that after a hard day’s work they can’t find a place near their house to park, especially if they have paid for a permit in a Controlled Parking Zone. For carers, the elderly and the disabled it presents particular difficulties.
In too many areas we now see people parking on the grass, damaging the verges and dislodging curb stones into the road. While a by-law is needed to tackle this issue, we should recognise it is a symptom of a wider problem and not the problem itself.
Various solutions to the parking problem have been tried. Crossovers can help some residents to create their own parking, yet they remove on-street parking for others. Controlled Parking Zones can address the problem in one area, but often push the cars into adjacent roads and very few highways changes are allowed per year. Parking improvement schemes can provide roads with additional parking spaces by removing grassed areas but these schemes don’t come cheap and the council can only afford to undertake a small number.
This disjointed approach is no longer working, if we are going to address the parking problem in Crawley we need to look at it as a whole, not simply dealing with one road at a time. We need a single taskforce of residents and borough and county councillors to look at the problem across the town and plan out how to use each solution to its maximum effect. Parking is a political issue, but it doesn’t have to be party political and if we are going to solve the problem we need to all start working together.