Branson vs Pickles – Virgin boss wants towns for people, minister wants them for cars

Meanwhile, Sustrans says drivers can save money by switching to bike or foot for shorter trips

by Simon_MacMichael   August 27, 2013  

Parking © Simon MacMichael_

Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, says it is time to do away with “draconian” parking policies, bollards and speed humps that he claims stop people visiting high street shops. Sir Richard Branson, however, insists towns and cities should be built around people, while charity Sustrans says motorists could save hundreds of pounds a year by switching to sustainable methods of travel for short trips.

The Secretary of State made his remarks in a press release from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) ahead of the introduction of new planning guidance this week.

Hitting out against parking fees that he claims “undermine the vitality of town centres,” as well as calling for speed bumps and parking bollards to be removed, and said that the current regime is leading people to shop online or at retail parks.

He added: “Draconian town hall parking policies and street clutter can make driving into town centres unnecessarily stressful and actually create more congestion because of lack of places to park.

“Anti-car measures are driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out of town superstores, taking their custom with them,” he maintains.

According to the new policy guidance, “Unnecessary clutter and physical constraints such as parking bollards and roads humps should be avoided.”

It says that town-centre parking has to be “convenient, safe and secure,” and that “parking charges should be appropriate and not undermine the vitality of town centres and local shops, and parking enforcement should be proportionate.”

The guidance also calls for the removal of unnecessary “clutter” such as signs: “The quality of signage, including that for shops and other commercial premises, is important and can enhance identity and legibility.

“However, street clutter is a blight, as the excessive or insensitive use of traffic signs and other street furniture has a negative impact on the success of the street as a place.”

It will be up to local authorities in England to decide whether or not to implement the new guidance, but Mr Pickles is hopeful that they will adopt it.

Pickles: Parking "an obstacle course"

According to the minister, “Trying to find somewhere to park has an obstacle course in too many of our towns, cities and seaside resorts.

“Confusing and difficult car parking practices are undermining the economic vitality of the high street and tourist destinations. Over-zealous parking wardens have inflicting real damage on local economies and given many towns and councils a bad name.

“Town halls need to ditch their anti-car dogma. Making it easier to park will help support local shops, local jobs and tourism,” he insists.

In a new report published today, however, the sustainable transport charity Sustrans says that motorists could save and average of £23 a month – equivalent, it says to £8.5 billion across Great Britain – if they cycled, walked or used public transport for short trips.

Sustrans: Ditch car for short trips

It says that its new report, Short Journeys, Big Savings, found that 40 per cent of short trips undertaken by motorists are of two miles or less, “a distance easily walked or cycled.”

It wants to see the proportion of trips made by bicycle, on foot, or via public transport doubled by 2020, and is urging the government “to invest heavily in infrastructure and implement measures such as lowering traffic speeds and improving driver training to achieve this ambition.”

The charity’s chief executive, Malcolm Shepherd, says: Many of the car trips we make could easily be walked or cycled but too many people are put off by speeding traffic and safety fears.

“The car shouldn’t be the first choice for travelling around the neighbourhood or going to work, especially when these short trips are burning a hole in household budgets.

“Walking, cycling and taking public transport for short journeys will not only save us cash but will also help us lead healthier and more active lives. We urgently need slower speeds, safer routes and improved driver training to help people take these first steps.”

Branson: Ban through traffic from streets people live on

On the same day Mr Pickles was talking about the new guidance, Virgin Group published on its website a blog post from its chairman, Sir Richard Branson, in which he outlined his views on how towns and cities could be designed to foster a greater sense of community among the people who live there.

Among other things, the business tycoon said that through traffic should be barred from residential streets with immediate effect.

He wrote: “If we were to redesign cities from scratch, how would you go about it? What would you keep and what would you change?

“Personally, I think cities should be designed with the wellbeing of the people who live there in mind. This means focusing upon creating the space and opportunity for real communities to develop. The importance of communities cannot be overstated.

“One way would be to design in circles. In the middle would be the village green, the focal point of communities where kids could play, adults could get out of the house to meet people and everyone could be safe. In most cities kids are usually confined to their houses because of worries like security and traffic.

“Another idea would be to close the majority of residential streets to traffic, only allowing people who actually live on the streets to park there. Then cover lots of streets with grass, creating green areas where people could interact and children could play safely.

“You could grass over about 50% of streets in a city like London and create village greens in residential streets instead. This could help create communities that in many areas don't exist.

“There would be more opportunity to get to know neighbours too, something that has disappeared as hectic lives, heavy traffic and indoor lifestyles have taken over.

“In the meantime, to immediately get a long way there with cities already built, residential roads should be closed to all through traffic.”

Somewhat surprisingly, last year Top Gear presenter Jeremy Clarkson sang the praises of the policies adopted in the Danish capital, Copenhagen, that favour travel by bicycle over motor vehicles.

"City fathers have to choose. Cars or bicycles. And in Copenhagen they’ve gone for the bike,” he said.

"The upshot is a city that works. It’s pleasing to look at. It’s astonishingly quiet. It’s safe. And no one wastes half their life looking for a parking space. I’d live there in a heartbeat."

36 user comments

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My local town centre isn't too bad for parking, I'd guess that 30% of the spaces are free for up to 2 hours and there are cycle racks dotted around plus a decent bus service.

Despite this, we've got a huge proportion of coffee shops and charity shops. The biggest problem for local businesses that I see is the huge cost of running the premises. I looked into opening a shop in the area and the cost of rent and rates was close to £100k per year.

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posted by colinth [183 posts]
27th August 2013 - 11:47

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If my shopping experiences are to go on (no I'm not a good example) then shopping in physical stores has reduced product choices, higher prices put against the physical aspects of touching, viewing and the "get it right now" no delivery wait. If they have it in stock!

So getting rid of parking issues wouldn't mean that I would any more frequently shop in a physical store than now.

It's a pity but comparing LBS and the likes of Wiggle, Chain Reaction, etc. is tricky. You cannot have a large stock base in a physical town centre shop as the price of the shop floor means that it is too expensive to have a large stock. That has nothing much to do with customer parking and street furniture.

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posted by vsmith1 [56 posts]
27th August 2013 - 11:57

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colinth wrote:
I also doubt the people who work at amazon would agree that there's no community benefit

Many in the town, however, have mixed feelings. They are grateful for the jobs Amazon has created but they are also sad and angry about the quality of them. Timothy Jones, a barrister and parish councillor, summed up the mood. “I very much want them to stay, but equally I would like some of the worst employment practices to end.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ed6a985c-70bd-11e2-85d0-00144feab49a.html

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posted by zanf [428 posts]
27th August 2013 - 12:15

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Get out of your car, Pickles. And step away from the pie.

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posted by nowasps [245 posts]
27th August 2013 - 12:32

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let pickles have his way ... it wont take long for complete
and utter grid-lock to set in then we can sit back and say
"Told you so you idiot" Smile

still on the 3rd switch-back of Bwlch !

posted by therevokid [682 posts]
27th August 2013 - 13:05

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Quote:
pubic transport

Arf arf

posted by Lifer [18 posts]
27th August 2013 - 13:29

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Given where this has come from, I can't help but be reminded of the expression: "Building roads to cure congestion is like loosening your belt to cure obesity."

You'd have thought that Pickles, of all people, would understand that doesn't work.

posted by CapriciousZephyr [27 posts]
27th August 2013 - 13:33

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I actively avoid driving to our nearest town centres (Witney and Chipping Norton) precisely because of the free parking. Because they're free, it's vastly popular - not least with very local residents who could feasibly walk or cycle. That means that finding a space in the car park on a Saturday morning is a hugely stressful experience. (Someone was actually run over by a reversing car in a Chippy car park earlier this year.)

Since I hate the stress of finding a space then gingerly manoeuvring into it, I therefore avoid these two towns and take the train into Oxford for my shopping. Or, of course, cycle if I haven't got too much to carry.

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posted by Doctor Fegg [131 posts]
27th August 2013 - 13:36

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Doctor Fegg wrote:
I actively avoid driving to our nearest town centres (Witney and Chipping Norton) precisely because of the free parking..

Guessing you may recognise where the picture was taken Wink

Though I live a 2-minute walk from the town centre and have never driven a car in my life.

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7933 posts]
27th August 2013 - 14:03

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Quote:

Eric Pickles, Communities Secretary, says it is time to do away with “draconian” parking policies, bollards and speed humps that he claims stop people visiting high street shops.

To be fair to Pickles, he's likely to have been told this by representatives of local business. Its the local those people who are out of touch.

In a recent article I read about my town's redevelopment, the council said that the town needed more parking, as that's what the local businesses said was their highest priority. Thing is, there are already 1400 bays in council car parks according to council website. When you take into account private car parks (Waitrose, M&S, Tesco, not to mention loads of small ones eg I know at least 5 pubs with car parks) this is probably 2000 parking bays. This is in a town with 30,000 residents. If you put 5 people in a car, then a third of the entire population can park in the town centre at the same time.

posted by qwerky [130 posts]
27th August 2013 - 14:33

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zanf wrote:
colinth wrote:
I also doubt the people who work at amazon would agree that there's no community benefit

Many in the town, however, have mixed feelings. They are grateful for the jobs Amazon has created but they are also sad and angry about the quality of them. Timothy Jones, a barrister and parish councillor, summed up the mood. “I very much want them to stay, but equally I would like some of the worst employment practices to end.”

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/2/ed6a985c-70bd-11e2-85d0-00144feab49a.html

Not sure what the point is there, it's a demanding place to work ? Probably, but the dole is a lot more demanding

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posted by colinth [183 posts]
27th August 2013 - 14:39

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Pickles does have a point. Around here, fairly recent implementation of parking fees I small rural towns has harmed the small shops that we doing Ok. The local council is also losing money by charging and subbing out the parking contact!
Equally Sustrans are living in their own world. Again around here, no car based travel is not an option, the buses being so infrequent and expensive. Shopping locally also means paying or arking!

posted by mattsccm [245 posts]
27th August 2013 - 14:42

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@Simon: indeed, potholes and everything. Needs more yarnbombing though Wink

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posted by Doctor Fegg [131 posts]
27th August 2013 - 14:46

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Cars and traffic are what have killed the high street, not a lack of parking. There are numerous examples in the UK alone where closing areas to traffic has increased trade. There are also several studies showing that pedestrians and cyclists spend more at local shops than motorists do.

Eric Pickles' agenda will drive more people to large chains and out of town centres.

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posted by mr-andrew [294 posts]
27th August 2013 - 15:03

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in Cambridge, we get the gumbies posting on the local news sit moaning that city centre parking is too expensive, yet the car parks all fill up at the weekends...

posted by Al__S [496 posts]
27th August 2013 - 15:48

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The point is that despite Amazon basing their warehouse at the town, the job security is crap, people are on zero hour contracts, feel overworked and put upon.

Or should they just be grateful for a shit job?

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posted by zanf [428 posts]
27th August 2013 - 16:35

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Doctor Fegg wrote:
@Simon: indeed, potholes and everything. Needs more yarnbombing though Wink

Entire High Street resurfaced this month; still plenty of potholes elsewhere Sad

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posted by Simon_MacMichael [7933 posts]
27th August 2013 - 16:54

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Making it difficult for cars in town centres will not make me ride my bike instead. I cycle to town when it's appropriate, i.e. when I don't have to lug home a load of shopping. If I want to buy bulky stuff then I'm going to take the car whatever. And in the winter, forget the bike. I can't cycle when it's so cold that my head goes numb and I lose all sense of balance. What we need in town centres are more places to pick up and drop off pedestrians. The only way I can stop to drop my wife and daughter in town is to stop on a double yellow line, ensuring that the nazis (parking wardens) are not loitering.

Andy

posted by jazzdude [59 posts]
27th August 2013 - 18:36

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zanf wrote:
The point is that despite Amazon basing their warehouse at the town, the job security is crap, people are on zero hour contracts, feel overworked and put upon.

Or should they just be grateful for a shit job?

As opposed to no job ? Yep, probably

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posted by colinth [183 posts]
27th August 2013 - 19:08

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cat1commuter wrote:
Eric Pickles is an interesting physical specimen, isn't he?

Quite. I've got him in my celebrity death pool. We have a "Mr Creosote" bonus.

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posted by seven [103 posts]
27th August 2013 - 19:33

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Pickles going for the low-hanging fruit (or should that be pastry) of the "motorists as persecuted group" vote. How original.

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posted by seven [103 posts]
27th August 2013 - 19:35

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He's being advised by that cigerette lobbyist fella, say this, say that, it'll be popular etc.

As if he needed any help to be c**k.

posted by IanW1968 [134 posts]
27th August 2013 - 19:39

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Cycling in many cases simply isn't an option, I can think of plenty of reasons of the top of my head such as hilly route, inclement weather, cost of purchasing a bike, lack of convenience when having to transport items home etc.

My wife is looking at purchasing a 'town bike', that will cost at least £200, for us we can afford that it but for many people that is a lot of money, especaiily for transporting bread and milk!

posted by thebungle [115 posts]
27th August 2013 - 19:49

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That little tinker Jeremy Clarkson, you've got to love him haven't you? Well, err, NO!
He sang the praises of Copenhagen, stating he would live there in a heartbeat. Well I'll readily contribute some cash to any fund that will encourage him to relocate there permanently.
If every cyclist contributed to the fund we might have to pay as much as one pound - very good value I'd say.

K Stand Ken

posted by K Stand Ken [41 posts]
27th August 2013 - 19:51

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cat1commuter wrote:
Eric Pickles is an interesting physical specimen, isn't he?

You mean he's a fat b****** ?

posted by dreamlx10 [134 posts]
27th August 2013 - 20:06

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What Mr Pickles doesn't seem to have taken into consideration is that it won't be just the occasional driver who stays on yellow lines for 15 minutes - the whole road will be taken up. And when one driver moves on after his allotted time (whatever that might be) then there will be another driver only too ready to take up the recently vacated spot. Result - chaos.

K Stand Ken

posted by K Stand Ken [41 posts]
27th August 2013 - 20:28

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dreamlx10 wrote:
cat1commuter wrote:
Eric Pickles is an interesting physical specimen, isn't he?

You mean he's a fat b****** ?

Always reminds me of the BBC's version of Perfect Day http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WJpQJWpVJds at 3:14 Heather Small of M People pops up singing 'You're going to reap just what you sew.' Or a moment on the lips a lifetime on the hips/those who live in cake shops shouldn't eat the first croissant; insert you're favourite axiom that says Shut up Pickles, you have no right to make these decisions.

Between the S and the LOW

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posted by bikeboy76 [1189 posts]
27th August 2013 - 21:37

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Look, just build him a drive-through Greggs and hope he shuts up.

People go to out-of-town superstores because they can park near a big shop, buy all their stuff, load it straight into the car and sod off. With loads of small shops close together (high street) that's never going to be possible. OK it used to be the case that, rather than doing a big shop once a week, people would go and buy fresh stuff every day from shops they could walk to. Well people don't have the time or the patience now. Couples both have to work full time to pay the mortgage, the cost of motoring is still lower than it ever was. That's what's killed the high street.

posted by SteppenHerring [169 posts]
27th August 2013 - 22:15

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You know you're in the right when Pickles holds the opposing view.

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posted by cavasta [201 posts]
28th August 2013 - 14:12

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have either of these two (pickles or branson) studied architecture, town planning, master planning, or urban design? the things they say would make you believe they have...

Feel the fear and do it anyway

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posted by hood [116 posts]
2nd September 2013 - 13:41

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