Sunday, 17 March 2013

The Grove Park CPZ Debate - the Anguish of a Disenfranchised Community

It seems our Isleworth ward councillor Ed Mayne continues to be the cause of much angst over in Chiswick, London W4.

Proposals to introduce a Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) in two streets close to the grounds of Chiswick House are being resisted by a clear majority of residents living in the Grove Park area. Although the Zone is to be limited in its scope those living in surrounding streets fear, with good reason, that the parking thereby displaced into their own neighbourhood will lead in the course of time to calls for it to be extended. This is, after all, what almost invariably happens with Controlled Parking Zones, and it is how schemes which may be cost-neutral to begin with morph into substantial money-spinners for the local authority.

Economically and politically, Chiswick is the ideal milch cow for the London Borough of Hounslow. As well as generally being the borough's most affluent area, it dutifully returns Conservative councillors at every local election, an outcome routinely expected by the Tories and accepted by Labour. For the powers that be there is no point in trying to alter the electoral status quo, and Labour tends to work around Chiswick rather than spending any time trying to make serious inroads into its politics.

On the issue of the CPZ, as one would expect the Tories would appear to be moderately supportive of the larger number whilst remaining mindful that many of those residents of the two streets who are in favour of the proposals are Conservative voters too. Any suggestion that the protest should be escalated has been met with nervous disinterest. Where they have been relatively vocal is in criticising the undemocratic and authoritarian methods by which the Labour Council would seem to be steamrollering the proposals through.

This whole continuing episode is probably the best example we have seen so far of how the disasterous electoral strategy pursued by the Tories at the local elections of 2010, which led to Labour regaining control of the borough, has impacted upon their own constituents. The people of Chiswick are now completely powerless and their councillors can only squeal impotently from the sidelines as the Labour machine tramples all over them and laughs in its wake.

Of course the Tories remain in denial about the role they played in bringing about this sorry state of affairs. Sometimes they even have the nerve to offer tactical advice, delivered one presumes with a straight face, to the campaigning residents. They are helped, one must record, by a profoundly unrevolutionary spirit which self-evidently prevails amongst the citizenry of Chiswick, which is a real shame as potentially they are in many respects better organised and better equipped for really effective community action than residents anywhere else in the borough, with a hugely vibrant local internet community and many active residents' groups.

It remains to be seen whether Chiswick residents will develop their own innovative strategies for resisting the relentless encroachments of the local authority or whether they will continue to place their faith in the self-neutered politicians whose vociferous fence-sitting can surely not remain unchallenged and unquestioned indefinitely by this vigilant but sometimes irritatingly genteel community?

More on this anon.

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