Victoria Summerley: City Life

'I have a problem with skip lorries. Especially when they arrive to a symphony of beeps, scrapes and bangs on Saturday morning'
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The Independent Online

The other day, my friend Janet accused me of having an obsession with skips. "You're always complaining about them in your column," she said.

This is completely untrue, I expostulated. I have nothing against skips. Indeed, I was casting covetous glances at some paving stones in one around the corner just the other day. It's skip lorries I have a problem with, especially when they arrive beep-beep-beeping on a Saturday morning, the prelude to a whole symphony of beeps and scrapes and bangs. Or when they block the road just when I need to drive somewhere, or when they block the neighbouring street, so all the traffic diverts down our road. You get the picture.

Skip lorries are scary to meet on the road, too. The drivers usually behave as if they're filming a remake of Mad Max and while, as a seasoned London driver, double-decker buses and taxis hold no fears for me, I would always give a skip lorry an extremely wide berth.

Anyway, the reason I mention skips this week (sorry, Janet) is because they have a bearing on parking. And parking is the big issue of the moment in our neighbourhood.

Regular readers may remember that we have recently had two parking zones introduced near us, one to the north and one to the south, in what some of my more irate neighbours would probably describe as Wandsworth council's version of the Manstein Plan – the pincer movement employed by Hitler when he invaded France.

Needless to say, this has increased pressure on parking in both mine and the surrounding streets, as those seeking to avoid either paying for permits or attracting penalty notices migrate into non-zoned roads. If you factor in a few skips (three houses in the next street have just changed hands), then the problem is exacerbated.

No one likes parking next to a skip. For a start, they're bigger at the top than at the bottom, so they're difficult to manoeuvre around. They don't have bumpers either, so if you're not an expert parker, they're pretty unforgiving. They also tend to be piled high with stuff that looks as if it might topple off on to your nice shiny motor.

The end result is there is always at least half a car length of space either end. You can bet that the car that would have parked there if that space had been available is now in my street instead.

If the council has its way, however, things may change. We were recently sent a consultation questionnaire seeking our views on whether we wanted a controlled parking zone (CPZ) in our street and, if so, what form those controls should take (one-hour barrier to keep commuters away; all-day restrictions; Monday-Friday only, etc).

The council doesn't bother with namby-pamby things like percentages in favour or quorums. If 17 people respond to the query and eight people are against and nine people are for, that majority of one is good enough for them. Thus, we have been lobbied in person by neighbours, and anonymously by a leaflet put through our letterbox by someone who obviously feels very strongly about the whole issue.

Neighbours who've lived here longer than me tell me they've already taken part in two consultations, both of which turned in a "no" vote. This may puzzle you if you've had half of south London's tradesmen parked in your road over Christmas while they buggered off to Thailand or Tenerife. But the prevailing view around here is that while this may be irritating, it's a small price to pay for your family, or visitors, being able to park for days at a time without fear of being ticketed or clamped.

Also, the introduction of parking controls usually results in fewer spaces, as the council has far sterner views about the demerits of parking on corners and opposite junctions than the public.

As the campaigning leaflet put it: "This semi-rural area would be disfigured by parking bays, yellow lines, posts in the pavements – all the usual paraphernalia signalling the victory of the bureaucracy in yet another small area." (I tell you something: whoever wrote this leaflet may not have had the courage to put their name to it, but they deserve full marks for spelling.)

It continued: "You will also find yourself having to buy visitors' permits and your builders definitely won't like it!"

Personally, I think that to describe our – albeit leafy – bit of London as semi-rural is pushing it a bit, and I wasn't very impressed with the argument that "your builders won't like it". Who gives a toss about what builders like? They're always moaning about something.

But I did agree with the closing sentiment, which read: "The simple message is that if you don't vote NO, you're voting in favour of this CPZ." I hate apathy, and the idea that something goes through just because people can't be bothered to get off their backsides and register their view is pathetic.

As yet, there's no indication when the council may make the findings of the consultation known, but I can't wait to see the results. As director Paul Thomas Anderson might put it: there will be blood.

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