Hell descends as motor mums hit Hampstead

THE AIR in Fitzjohn's Avenue, Hampstead, was blue yesterday from the exhaust fumes of a half-mile tailback of cars inching their way along bumper- to-bumper - and from the curses of parents fighting over parking spaces.

The scene is repeated twice daily in this affluent north London street, where half a dozen schools are situated within a few hundred yards of each other. Traffic grinds to a standstill in Fitzjohn's Avenue and surrounding residential streets, as thousands of children are delivered to and collected from their seats of learning.

The area is well-known as a school-run blackspot because of to its concentration of schools.There are rich pickings for hungry traffic wardens in the afternoon as parents park on yellow lines, in residents' bays and even on the pavement.

John Prescott, the Secretary of State for Transport, would have wept yesterday at the sight of a procession of Ford Galaxys, Land Rover Discoverys, and other gas-guzzlers drawing up outside Hampstead's over-subscribed schools and departing with one small uniformed figure in the back.

"It's a nightmare," said Sharan McTaggart, surveying the scene and fanning herself with a newspaper. Twice a day Ms McTaggart, a nanny, drives to and from Hackney, a 45-minute trip, to drop off and pick up her charges, Flo and Joe Beddle-Brill, aged four and seven respectively, from Devonshire House Preparatory School.

Ms McTaggart plans the school runs with military precision. Mornings she drops the children at the gate; afternoons she arrives at 2.30pm - an hour before the end of school - in order to secure a precious pay- and-display parking space.

Others adopt a riskier strategy. Petrit Riza, picking up his two children, was hovering yesterday on a double yellow line outside Fitzjohn's Primary, hazard lights flashing, engine idling for a swift getaway. Down the road, one optimistic mother had left her Mercedes parked illegally, with a notice displayed on the dashboard saying: "Parent collecting child from school."

There is no alternative to the school run, these parents and nannies claim. Public transport is too complicated and time-consuming, taxis too expensive, car pools too much of a headache to arrange.

Karen Falkner, who lives in Islington, where the poor quality of local schools was highlighted again this week, and who sends her three children to Devonshire House, said: "It's just easier by car."

But one cyclist, white-faced after nearly being hit by a Renault Espace, said: "Fitzjohn's Avenue is hell on earth."

The Espace driver was still behind the wheel examining her nails. Had she ever thought of sharing in a car pool? The woman did not reply, but her expression spoke volumes. It said: "This is my people carrier, and I'm not sharing it with anyone."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
News
Bill Gates, founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation
businessUber, Snapchat and Facebook founders among those on the 2015 Forbes Billionaire List
News
news... and what your reaction to the creatures above says about you
News
Homer’s equation, in an episode in 1998, comes close to the truth, as revealed 14 years later
science
News
news
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - Covent Garden, central London - £45k - £55k

£45000 - £55000 per annum + 30 days holiday: Ashdown Group: Finance Manager - ...

Ashdown Group: Systems Administrator - Lancashire - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: 3rd Line Support Engineer / Network ...

Recruitment Genius: Graduate Web Developer

£26000 - £33000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Web Developer is required to ...

Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Developer - London - £45k

£45000 per annum: Ashdown Group: PeopleSoft Application Support & Development ...

Day In a Page

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

Money, corruption and drugs

The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

150 years after it was outlawed...

... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

You won't believe your eyes

Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

It's not easy being Green

After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

Gorillas nearly missed

BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

The Downton Abbey effect

Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

China's wild panda numbers on the up

New census reveals 17% since 2003