The danger for any broadly-accepted political concept is that it can, over time, lapse into dogma. One such trend has been emerging in the way motorists are getting a raw deal under a planning system skewed in favour of developers under the guise of green initiatives.
In a number of flats developments in densely populated areas of the town, applicants have put forward schemes with not enough parking spaces.
On the face of it, this would just seem to be developers cutting corners to the detriment of the people who will live there. This shortcut is understandably desirable as reduced parking means another property or two can be crammed into the development.
Yet when councillors express displeasure about these shortfalls, planning officials retort that the developer can claim the development, or part of it, is “car free”. And that is basically that.
Recent cases include the proposals to develop the Victorian villa at 36 Clarendon Road (24 spaces for 36 new flats) or the old Verulam Arms pub in St Albans Road (13 spaces for 18 flats). Both were turned down in the end, but because of other factors.
Another area where this groupthink appears is during the periodic discussions at the borough council about raising the price of permits in controlled parking zones.
A comparative data chart produced by the borough showed many councils charge a far higher amount for second vehicle permits. Possibly this is partly to prevent overcrowding. But there also seems to be a more pernicious strand of thought that cars are a bona fide demarcation of wealth – people with two vehicles must be well-heeled and indulgent petrolheads bent on destroying the environment.
In reality, many families have to run a second car due to necessities such as working in an area poorly served by public transport or having to get their children to school.
Most families would surely do away with their second car if they could, purely on expense grounds.
Many of these initiatives are tenuously justified by their environment credentials as part of the green agenda, which is widely endorsed by the political establishment.
Personally I can see sense in weaning ourselves off a dependency on fossil fuels. As long as it is the life blood of our economy, petroleum-producing nations will always have a friendly hand on our throat.
It’s also important to add that cars are not intrinsically evil.
The current breed run on a finite fuel that harms the environment. But that is not the fault of the people who drive and rely on them.
If our political class is so concerned about emissions their time would be better spent helping industry come up with a viable affordable green alternative instead of ham-fistedly trying to force people out of their cars and into an inadequate public transport system.
And these efforts should go beyond the current series of vacuous green gestures such as turning parking spaces in the town’s car parks into charging points for green electro-cars. (If anyone ever sees one of these being used by the way, do let me know as it would be a rare enough occurrence to merit news coverage).
At the moment, the blunt and unthinking application of green initiatives seems to be aiding developers and the council at the expense of everyone unable to afford their own driveway.