I was recently contacted by a neighbour who has asked for my support in calling for more free car parking in the Prestwich area. I found the direction of the conversation to be very car plus and bicycle negative. I have copied the communication below for your amusement and comments. I have made some minor edits to make it easier to a reader unfamiliar with the area and have also changed some names.
Email to me:
I would like to send the following letter to local councillors and our M.P.
Can you suggest any other comments/modifications ? I was trying to make the point that it's not just a problem for our flats but for Prestwich Village in general as I think we'd get more support that way. I would send you a copy of the final version before sending.
Would you be willing to be a co-signatory and possibly add your e-mail address?
I have already contacted our local councellor and been told that Prestwich is well-served with carparks and I should have bought a house with a drive.
Sally's proposed letter:
The carpark at the Longfield Suite is frequently full and cars are always driving round and round, waiting for a spot, sometimes out into the road. The one beside the Catholic Church seems to be usually full too. I don't know what can be done about this but want to make you aware of the problem before it gets even worse.
They are used a great deal by people using the Metro [tram]. Is it possible for the Metro authorities to be asked to provide some extra parking?
Parking for visitors to Prestwich Village is a very big problem. There is already a problem with parking due to the flats having been built with only 121 parking spots. The remaining 19 residents obviously take up public parking and many flats have two cars. Living in a flat here is not like being in the centre of a town such as London or Manchester as people don't expect parking there. Most people go to those places via public transport. Prestwich Village has many people coming by car as it is so close to the Motorway and good roads.
What is going to happen after the redevelopment? [local shopping centre due to be rebuilt and expanded 2010 onwards] It would seem that the new carpark will need to be very much bigger to allow for the lack of parking already, as well as the need for more due to the supermarket. We also feel that the new parking should be free.
I had hoped that people living in the flats would become part of the community and live here for long periods. If there is nowhere for visitors to park this isn't going to happen.
I am also concerned as to what happens when "carers" have to come to people in the flats. Is the Council or Social Services required to provide a few places for these? I thought that the Govt. was trying to provide care at home for people instead of their having to go into "homes".
There is also the problem of there being nowhere for taxis to wait outside the entrance. Elderly and disabled people do need some help with their shopping and luggage from taxis.
There is a problem with workmen coming to the flats. Even if they pay the parking fee for the carpark near the entrance, this carpark is often full.
Thanks for your email.
I know there is always a balance to be struck between parking provision and other amenities and I feel we have a suitable mix in Prestwich.
There is free parking available and the new plans do provide more for the planned supermarket and hotel. People buying/renting at the flats do so with facilities as they stand and can choose accordingly if they wish to live there. I believe the bus and metro [tram] links are good points for the flats and Prestwich as a whole. As a regular commuter cyclist I do not wish to see more cars cramming into the roads looking for more parking provision. We should be investing in Dutch style cycling facilities to get people out of their cars and adopting a healthier lifestyle but I will not bore you with that argument!! Needless to say I cannot support your letter.
Cheers for now. All the best.
I was then sent a from another neighbour who had been CC'd into the initial communication. She is elderly and has a disabled husband. I have included my reply along with the main points of her letter:
Many thanks for the letter you attached to your recent email. I have copied it below and will attempt to answer your points as best I can.
[Molly] We live in an ageing population where it is difficult for a lot of people to get around and are totally reliant on a car to go shopping at the supermarket and visiting other people etc. I don’t think the aging population would find it is easy to get on a bike and get the shopping home. In fact I don’t think the aging population would find it easy to get on a bike at all!
[My answer] I am fully aware we live in society with an increasingly elderly population. I never suggested all people should get on a pushbike and am sorry you interpreted my email in that way. Surely though if those that could did so it might free up road and parking space for those who are more reliant on a car? I myself use a car and enjoy driving it but I try and make all short journeys on foot, bicycle, etc, avoiding the use of a car unless really needed.
[Molly] Young families with children need a car also to get them to school, drop off and collect from nursery en route to work, to do various shopping for the home and to take them to their friends’ homes as most consider it unsafe to allow them to make their own way.
[My answer] Some young families use a car to drop children at nursery or school. I doubt all those that do need to use a vehicle. I consider my family to be a young one with a child at nursery. She is walked to and from the gate as are the majority of the children in her class. I just wonder why "...most consider it unsafe to allow them to make their own way". Could part of that reluctance be because of the high volume of motorised traffic about nowadays making the roads unsafe?
[Molly] If we want the precinct to survive, we need to encourage customers from other areas to shop here and to use the Longfield Centre for leisure pursuits. Not everyone lives near the metro [tram] and a convenient bus stop. Also the cost of public transport is extortionate especially travelling with a family. You mention we have free parking well, apparently that will not be the case if current proposals are carried out!
[My answer] The Longfield shopping precinct has its metrolink stop, several bus stops, a local taxi rank and free car parking. It may or may not come to pass the car parking provided with the new plans is chargeable, however the one next to the catholic church it intended to remain free - I asked myself at a local planning meeting last year. I strongly believe if you provide more and more free parking spaces it only encourages people to use them when they could have made their way easily by other means. How much and where would you like to build the extra car parking locally and who should pay for it if not the motorist? I do not want to live in the middle of a shopping mall.
[Molly] We live in a time where a lot of people are very lonely and look forward to friends and relatives visiting. How could this be possible without a car? You talk about choosing to live in the flats. I have to live in an apartment because my husband is so disabled. Does that mean that we cannot expect care workers and others to visit us unless they are on bikes?
[My answer] Again, I never suggested everyone use a bicycle to make their journey, although I don't see why community nurses, carers, etc could not use a pushbike as a means of transport. I know of several nurses who do their community rounds on bikes although the majority cannot because of the equipment or drugs they carry. I could also argue increased car use and the ease of motorised travel is one of the reasons some elderly people are now isolated in their homes, as family and friends have moved away and commute long distances. However, I feel the car is a useful and valid means of transportation and I do not want to see the car banned from Prestwich. My point is more car parking does not solve a congestion problem but just encourages greater traffic volumes to fill the spaces and so also increases traffic in the surrounding streets. Of course a balance needs to be met. I believe there is enough car parking provision around the flats and would like to see those people who can encouraged to use other means to to make local journeys rather than using a car.
I don't think I will persuade you and Sally to my way of thinking and I do not intend to. I merely wish to give my reasons why I cannot support a call for more car parking in the area.