Toby Young compares Churchfield Road with Downtown Detroit

Standard piece blames Ealing Council for over-zealous parking enforcement

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This article originally appeared in The Evening Standard


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An article has been published in the Evening Standard today by Toby Young voicing his disapproval of Ealing Council's 'over zealous' parking enforcement. He says their ticketing is putting people off shopping locally and is putting shops out of business.

The piece echoes opinions expressed by locals in recent articles published on this website. Here is Toby's take on the problems caused by Ealing Council's multi-pronged parking enforcement on Churchfield Road:

When I first moved to Acton last year, I was relieved to discover that the area isn't as run down as I expected. Churchfield Road, in particular, is a lovely street, boasting a sizable park at one end, a beautifully maintained railway station in the middle and an array of excellent shops, including Pearls Drycleaners, Paint and Central Heat. My favourite is probably Vanilla, an "ethical" coffee shop that does a great line in cakes, sandwiches and waffles.

Imagine my despair, therefore, when I discovered that Vanilla is about to close. Other local businesses, too, are circling the drain. And when they go under, they won't be replaced. At present, there are nine vacant shops in Churchfield Road and what was once Acton's premier shopping street is beginning to resemble downtown Detroit.

"We are returning to a rundown part of the borough we all worked so hard to regenerate over the past 20 years," says Sonny Masson, the owner of Paint.

It isn't the credit crunch that's putting these shops out of business, but Ealing council's over-zealous enforcement of the local parking laws. Last year, for instance, I got a ticket for leaving my car in a loading bay while I dropped off my dry cleaning at Pearls. I would have parked in one of the two stop-and-shop bays opposite, but they were both occupied by a large white van - a parking enforcement van, as it turned out.

Not only is this van constantly circling the area, causing precisely the disruption to traffic flow that the parking laws are designed to prevent, but Ealing council has now seen fit to mount a fixed CCTV camera opposite the railway station. The upshot is that anyone who pulls over to nip into one of the local shops will almost certainly receive a £50 penalty notice.

"I wonder if the council is aware that all of us here refund regular customers for the parking tickets because we know we just can't afford to lose them at the moment," says Sonny Masson.

Mr Masson and other local shopkeepers submitted a petition to a council meeting bearing hundreds of signatures and the councillors promised to look into the problem. But less than a week later the parking enforcement van was back, squatting in the stop-and-shop bays like a malevolent toad.

"If it carries on like this, we're all going to go out of business," says Mish Taank, the owner of Pearls Drycleaners. "One of my customers received a ticket in 32 seconds. Surely there should be some flexibility?"

This isn't a problem confined to Acton. All over London, shops are being put out of business by rapacious local councils using CCTV to ambush their customers. Unless they start playing fair, streets like Churchfield Road will soon become uninhabitable ghettos.

March 23, 2009