Resident view: We have got to think bigger picture for Haslemere

Dear Editor.

I am writing with reference to the sad outcome of last week’s meeting at Haslemere Hall, chaired by Councillor Pat Frost, of Surrey County Council.

Why didn’t the spaces by the Haslemere fire station get allocated to start up a shared car pool?

This is a missed opportunity to do something forward thinking that will benefit us all, not just a handful of people who choose to buy a house with little or no private parking.

The question I have is: How many Haslemere town people need to actually own a car, or even a second? This is especially relevant given the high number of commuters who get the train into London.

Shropshire Councillors have backed the launch of an ecofriendly car club which has eased the congestion problems in Shrewsbury town centre.
http://www.shrewsburychronicle.com/2012/01/06/councillors-back-plan-for-eco-car-pool-club/

Apparently, apart from reducing parking and traffic congestion, schemes like this could save motorists £3,500 per year. Use electric cars and there will be an environmental benefit to.

Further examples of successful commercial schemes can be seen run by: http://www.golow.org.uk/

There are already car-pool schemes in quite a few towns and cities – why not Haslemere?

This is just one solution that will help and benefit Haslemere people as a whole – we have got to think bigger picture for Haslemere, and move away from private meetings between Councillors and small groups.

Yours faithfully

Haslemere Hetty

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From: E B [mailto:] Sent: 06 February 2013 9:45 PM
To: editor@haslemereparking.com
Subject: Haslemere shared car-pool

1 comment for “Resident view: We have got to think bigger picture for Haslemere

  1. Paul M
    07/02/2013 at 16:31

    Haslemere Hetty makes a very sound point – it is quite specific in its scope but it hints at a much wider, general point.

    Many factors have over the years conspired to make it easier for most of us to own and use cars, but they have also conspired to make alternatives to the car unviable, at least outside major urban centres where, in central London for example, even wealthy boroughs like Westminster have no more than about 35% of households owning a car.

    This factor, where, if you’ll excuse the pun, the car has driven away alternatives, is a problem for us all. Primarily of course it is a problem for the young, who are not permitted to hold a driving licence until they are 17 years old; for a sector of society, mercifully a small one in our area, which simply cannot afford one; and for those who do not have the capacity due to age or disability to drive themselves. A very obvious example there is those with sight disabilities.

    However it is also a problem for the rest of us. Firstly, there are those who can’t really afford a car, but nevertheless are compelled to suffer the cost of one because without it they cannot access work. They could be spending that money on holidays, or clothes, or a better home to live in. I’ll wager there are 20-somethings around who save money by living at home with mum & dad because once they have paid for their car (especially the ruinous insurance premiums) there isn’t enough left to pay rent.

    Then there are those who would simply prefer to use alternatives, eg walking into town. Clearly there is an appetite for this – you only had to look at how many people were walking around Waitrose with a basket when we last had a serious snow fall a couple of years ago, and many of our residential roads became impassable by car. Trouble is, there are so many disincentives. It could be as simple as being comfortable in the warm and dry, but there is also the condition of our roads, with quite a few Haslemere roads being deeply unattractive to walk (or cycle) along. Who for example would want to walk to the health centre from the west?

    One of the issues I have with unrestricted car parking in town – in case you hadn’t noticed – is that car-dependence is self-perpetuating, like a chain reaction. The more we rely on our cars, the more we are compelled to rely on them, to the point where it inconveniences the luckiest of us and seriously damages the interests of the least lucky.

    Car pooling, or membership-hire schemes, do offer at least a partial solution. The car manufacturers clearly want to sell cars as a lifestyle choice, an expression of personality even, with fictionalised images of the “romance of the open road”. I have no doubt that some people are taken in by this delusion, but for many people it would be sufficient to have the freedom and flexibility of driving when necessary, without the cost, worry and responsibility when not. I should imagine that is particularly true of retired people, who have to get used to a reduction in their incomes on giving up work. Others, like me for example, don’t even open our car doors from Monday to Friday because we travel to work on the train – the Census will probably have the details but I would guess around a quarter of the adult population of the town. A car pool not only solves that problem, it offers us the chance to choose a car to suit the particular circumstances of their journey – perhaps a Smart car for that drive into Guildford, looking for a very small parking slot on the street, or a big estate for a longer journey, or a pick-up for a trip to the dump in Witley. And of course electric vehicles for shorter urban trips.

    I would like to see other measures though. In particular I would like to see the whole central area of town turned into a 20mph zone, say from Hill Rd on the A286 to the south through to Church Lane/Three Gates lane to the north, and Haste Hill to the east, to the railway station to the west. That could extend to many if not all residential roads. We could civilise out town centre by adapting the “naked street” philosophy which recently transformed Poynton in Cheshire – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-vzDDMzq7d0&feature=youtu.be – giving shoppers and residents equal access to the high street with motor traffic. If it works there with a much busier main road, why not here?

    And I would like to see conditions for cyclists improved on our main roads, especially the B2131 and A286 & A287. Surrey Ciunty Council does not have, in my view, a glorious record on highways management. Perhaps this is something localism could really get to work on.

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