Consultation confusion hits Greenwich’s Blackheath parking plan

Rum goings-on up at Blackheath’s Old Dover Road, where Greenwich Council is “consulting” on a plan to make people pay for their parking by mobile phone. It’s the kind of shopping street many would rhapsodise about and cherish, with lots of little independent retailers. But not in the “royal” borough of Greenwich, which is the landlord to those independent shopkeepers, many of whom complain about steep rent increases.

That same landlord is also whacking up parking charges. You might have noticed this website isn’t particularly sympathetic to car drivers. But the real problem on Old Dover Road isn’t traffic, as such – it’s the idiots who double-park or wait in the middle of the road to avoid parking charges.

The real sting in the plan, though, is to trial paying for parking by mobile phone – doing away with the need to maintain pay-and-display machines. Unfortunately, many of those who drive up to Old Dover Road are elderly. These aren’t the sort of people who’ll have mobile phones. Yet some bright spark in Woolwich has decided to trial this scheme here. Of course, this has gone down like a cup of cold sick, with a 1,400-strong petition against the plan.

Anyway, the whole thing has now gone out to consultation. Except it hasn’t. Because where the consultation had gone online earlier this week…

…it has now vanished again. Another proposal, for Eltham, has also gone west.

Information about the consultation is also difficult to come across. I’m told by a local that “Blackheath Library is devoid of information”, despite being directly affected by the scheme, while this week’s issue of propaganda rag Royal Greenwich Time (seriously, that’s what they’re calling it now) contains no news at all about this.

It’s usually easier to point to cock-up rather than conspiracy. But this website understands that local Labour councillors – including the party’s sole Blackheath Westcombe representative Alex Grant – are openly rebelling against the plan. There’s trouble in the usually docile Greenwich Labour ranks. Could the battle over Old Dover Road be the start of something bigger? Watch this space.

11.10am update: Greenwich Council has backed down on the pay-by-mobile proposal, It’s just been announced. (Thank you to the Westcombe Society for letting me know by email.) A new set of proposals will go out at a later date.

A belated victory for people power, or a last-ditch attempt to pacify mutinous Labour councillors?

3.15pm update One observer has written to say how Greenwich mayor Jim Gillman – effectively leader Chris Roberts’ stooge – shut down discussion of the now-canned proposal a month ago. “There was a big delegation at the last council meeting. There was a discussion on parking and Alex Grant tried to get in on it – presumably to respond to some of what his constituents had been saying – and the Mayor cut him off and did he usual “We’ve had a long debate on this, would you mind if we left it that”.

1pm Saturday update: Greenwich issued a press release just after 5pm on Friday (ensuring it’d miss the deadlines for the local papers – a regular practice) confirming the plans for Old Dover Road and Eltham had been withdrawn. No mention of the pay-by-mobile plan, but a good mention for government cuts – the cuts that still don’t stop councillors living it up at our expense.

This website understands the pay-per-mobile plan has been withdrawn completely, and the consultation was withdrawn because the pay-by-mobile plan hasn’t even been approved by councillors. If you look at page 24 of this document, approved by the council’s cabinet in December 2010, you’ll see it doesn’t even mention pay-by-mobile, just pay and display.

So Greenwich Council’s leadership was caught trying to push through something its own cabinet hadn’t even agreed to. You can see why there’s some pretty tense feelings in the Labour camp right. If you see them out campaigning this weekend (there’s big pro-Ken push today) – why not smile and ask them about it?


  1. I’m not sure if the consultation so far involves putting notices through people’s doors, but if it does they don’t seem to have done the side streets (which will presumably either be included, or affected anyway as people look for free alternatives). We’ve certainly not had anything.

    The plan seems to be the worst off all worlds. As far as I understand, the shops want to discourage people from parking there all day (to commute onwards, presumably). A ‘free for two hours then pay’ would help solve this, but that’s not on the table. Charging everyone would hurt the shops (and ultimately the council’s rent book).

    As a related aside, is it true that M&S don’t let their staff pack in the car park, thus clogging up ODR further?

  2. I’m a regular up at the Standard and I always drive there from Charlton. At £1.60 for a mug of latte in Gambadellis, why not?

    By far the bulk of the cars there are there just for an hour or so. They’re driven by people like me — bit of a health problem, can’t be arsed to wait for a bus (sorry Greenies). If I get something from Marks I park there, if not, on the road or in the (reasonably-priced) car park at the end of the parade.

    If they start mucking around with pay-by-mobile, pushing the charges up etc I won’t go as often and will start frequenting the Valley cafe a bit more.

    Why can’t the idiots who came up with this idea work this one out? It really is as simple as it seems. Local shops will suffer.

    Neil – I believe it is true that M&S staff can’t use the car park.

  3. Just want to add my slightly-related tuppenceworth. When the P&D machine by Pond Road in Blackheath was out of order, I was forced to pay for parking using mobile phone (the small print says even if the machine is broken you have to pay this way). It was a proper faff to do so, and, to add insult to injury, the payment came up on my card statement as ‘Parking Fine.’ How rude!

  4. Personally – was very concerned about use of mobile phones by people with hearing loss, and anxious to find out how this works elsewhere.
    – also – very concerned – about remarks above about elderly people unlikely to use mobile phones —– er – er — a bit patronising perhaps???

  5. Mary – I don’t think Darryl was patronising.

    As a grey-haired one I regard mobile phones as a bloody nuisance. I’ver only got one so the trouble can call me and ask ‘Where are you?’ and the kids (late father!) can call me to ask for a lift.

    Like many others I don’t trust the airwaves with my wedge, so don’t be concerned.

  6. I am intrigued to see 853 claiming that I have been “openly rebelling” against a plan for payment by mobile phione, and have somehow been gagged form speaking about it.

    The truth is a little less exciting. Your story acknowledged that mobile-only payment for parking has never been council policy. The council pulled the recent consultation as it contained errors, and will be reconsultuing soon on a number of payment options.

    As for the full council meeting last month, I don’t think the Mayor intervened to prevent me from speaking: it is common for the Mayor to bring debate to a close so the meeting doesn’t go on for ever.

    My views as a Labour councillor for the area are simple and on the record: I am opposed to the “mobile only” payment option for parking outside the shops on Old Dover Road. If any charges are introduced, I think they should be payable in cash and debit card as well by phone. However, the council does need to make difficult decisions about parking charges, and many other things, as we continue to make the £63m of savings over four years that the Government has forced on us.

  7. Blimey Alex, I would be well-chuffed if a local blog accused me of ‘openly rebelling’ against something everyone is against. You say, ‘if any charges are introduced’. You should be campaigning against them — you are, aren’t you?!

    I fully accept the Tories/coalition are behind the cuts, but stopping people like me going to the Standard to put some money into the local economy isn’t really going to help, is it? Or maybe it is, if so, please elucidate.


  8. I suppose Cllr Grant’s honesty is to be commended, but I must admit to being amused that given the chance to be portrayed as fearlessly standing up for his constituents, he would prefer to appear as yet another party hack.

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