ticket machine obstructing highway
empty street early Saturday afternoon
unlawful unenforceable parking restrictions
airshow trade visitors parking on footpath
and in the middle of a busy main road
nuisance parking in local roads
and on grass verges
'That is absolute rubbish. It does not mean the traffic regulation order becomes unlawful.' -- Mike Bamber, parking official, Rotten Borough of Rushmoor
Lying on the south side of Farnborough, facing out towards neighbouring Aldershot, North Camp is the original centre of Farnborough. Like Aldershot, it came into being with the arrival of the Army.
Pictures of North Camp from the early 1900s, show the streets thronged with shoppers. Much smaller than then, North Camp now consists of a large number of independent, specialist retailers and a very wide range of restaurants. Shops like The Deli, a purveyor of quality foods, lovingly restored to its original Victorian splendour. Within the last few months, three coffee shops cum sandwich shops have opened, and not a Starbucks in sight.
One would think that the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor would look at this success story, replicate what works, but no, they push doomed schemes that simply hasten the decline of failing town centres.
Aldershot is a ghost town, boarded-up shops, charity shops (and even they are pulling out or have pulled out) junk food outlets and yobs on the streets. All the indicators of a failing town centre. Nighttime the streets are taken over by drunken violent youths looking for trouble.
What killed Aldershot was the gutting of the town centre for a grotty retail centre and an edge-of town Tesco superstore. It was the local councillors who gave planning permission for an extension to the grotty shopping centre, and yet now the self-same hypocrites are criticising the owners for not filling it full of retailers (at the last count, four out of twenty one retail units were occupied). Obviously they have not noticed the number of town centre retail developments across the country that are being put on hold or shelved, that major retailers are offloading their property portfolios to remain in businesses, that the consumer spending bubble has burst, that were are heading into recession.
Not having learnt from past mistakes, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor not only granted planning consent for a mixed development yuppie flats cum retail cum leisure between Tesco and the town centre call Westgate, but actively connived with the developers to promote it.
This was called 'regeneration'. It was anything but, it would have relocated the retail centre of gravity towards Tesco and away from the town centre, the High Street names it was expected to attract would have drained money out of the local economy in what is already a pocket of deprivation in an otherwise affluent south east.
Westgate has now collapsed in scandal. Linden Homes, who were to have built the yuppie flats have recognised there is no market for yuppie flats and have pulled out, causing the project to collapse.
The councillors are now playing the only game in town, the blame game.
What has so incensed them and why they are getting so excited, is that the Army sports facilities have been chosen as a training ground for the London 2012 Olympics. It should be emphasised the Army facilities, not anything provided by the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor. But to their embarrassment, the world will get to see what a shit-hole (as it is known locally) is Aldershot.
What the dimwitted councillors lack the ability to understand is that there is insufficient retail demand to fill the existing retail space, let alone new retail space. That is why the Galleries, the extension to the grotty shopping centre, lies almost empty. Plus there are not the people on the streets.
Even less do they understand that the only way to rescue a failing town centre is from the bottom up, not top down, imposed from above. This involves working with local retailers, the local community, stemming the flow of money out of the local community.
In neighbouring Farnborough the situation is even worse, there the retailers are pulling out.
Like Aldershot, Farnborough too is a ghost town, boarded-up shops, card shops, charity shops (and even they are pulling out or have pulled out) junk food outlets and one huge demolition site. Like neighbouring Aldershot, all the indicators of a failing town.
Last summer half the town centre was demolished to make way for a superstore which will face out of the town centre. Social housing to be demolished for a car park for the superstore. Above the superstore leisure and yuppie flats.
This is what is jokingly called 'regeneration'.
Ten years ago, property developer St Modwen (through a Kuwaiti-financed front-company KPI) bought Farnborough town centre. They have spent the last ten years laying waste to the town centre. There is now little left. Prior to the involvement of St Modwen, Farnborough had a viable town centre with a good range of shops, now its is ghost town.
St Modwen itself is now in financial difficulty.
Having destroyed Aldershot and Farnborough, the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor now seems determined to destroy North Camp. A few months ago, ticket machines appeared in the streets, motorists now have to pay to park outside the shops, where hitherto it was free. The first I became aware of these machines was when I almost collided with one in the street. The first many people became aware was when they were slapped with a parking fine. Many shops now have notices warning people of the need to buy a ticket. Nothing more likely to discourage a customer from returning is to receive a parking fine for parking outside their shop.
If a trader puts a board out in the street to make passers by aware of his wares, he gets done by the council for obstructing the highway, but it's ok for the council to erect permanent obstructions in the highway. One rule for them, one rule for the rest of us.
Where, once upon a time on a Saturday afternoon, the streets would be full of cars, they are now half empty.
Speaking with retailers, they all tell me business has been hit.
Ideally, turn North Camp into a pedestrian area, but this is not popular with short-sighted retailers, who sadly can often not see further than the end of their cash tills, which probably explains why they are small retailers.
The same view was taken in Curitiba when pedestrian streets were first introduced. Retailers even planned a big demonstration. After the first day of trading they were lobbying for more car free streets!
At a recent angry packed public meeting in North Camp, local traders, local residents, shoppers, all expressed their opposition to the introduction of charges in the streets. The reaction of the arrogant councillors and their officials was that they knew best, the charges were here to stay.
This is what is called local democracy in the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor, an arrogant contempt for the views of the local community.
Now it seems, the lines marked in the street are not lawful! At least that is the view of Peter Guest, a parking consultant with 35 years of experience, a former president of the British Parking Association. But the arrogant Rushmoor parking official Mike Bamber thinks he knows best.
Arrogant Deputy Leader of the council Roland Dibbs, true to form, opens his mouth and displays his appalling ignorance on the subject.
'The areas are clearly delineated, and whether the lines are solid lines or dotted lines doesn't make any difference.'
Sorry to have to correct you Councillor Dibbs, but it actually does.
The guidance on parking on the highway is quite clear and unambiguous:
'The manner in which the ranges of possible restrictions are to be marked and signed is prescribed by the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002. This weighty, comprehensive and detailed volume sets out the precise requirements, size, type, colour and permitted variants of every sign and road marking.'
'A restriction marked with signage that is not in accordance with the regulations may not be enforced.'
Dibbs is a councillor with arrogant contempt for the local community, who backs every crass policy put forward by the council. He wanted to see an incinerator in Aldershot. Backed expansion of Farnborough Airport, destruction of Farnborough town centre. Last year he imposed fortnightly waste collection on several thousand households, claiming it was a popular policy with no associated problems and costs, and currently is trying to give every household a half-size wheelie bin at a cost of £750,000 to the local taxpayer.
Dibbs would be well advised to look to Lincoln. There the City Council is having to repay all the fines it had unlawfully levied because lines had not been correctly painted in the street.
Bamber meanwhile has refused to refund parking tickets or revoke fines issued in North Camp where there are disputed markings. He is concerned this would give people the wrong message.
'It could mislead them, making them believe they are in the right when they are in the wrong. If anyone comes to the council asking us for a refund, the answer is going to be no. Even if we chose to offer a refund we would have no way of assessing any claim.'
In other words two fingers to the local community.
The ticket machines cost £3,000 each. In just one short road six of these machines. The council is never going to recover the capital cost of these machines, let alone the on-going running costs.
One of the problems in North Camp has been a small minority of selfish traders who park their vehicles in the street all day thus queering the pitch for everyone else. All that was needed was a limit on parking, say one hour, which was strictly enforced.
Bamber and his ilk, would be better employed dealing with illegal parking elsewhere in North Camp.
Cars parked on footpaths forcing pedestrians off the footpath into the path of oncoming speeding vehicles.
Arrogant Rotten Borough of Rushmoor official Mike Bamber claimed the introduction of parking fees has the support of the one and only greengrocer in North Camp.
'If we removed all the ticket machines, you would have people like the greengrocer in Camp Road struggling. He is delighted at the effect on his business because people can park outside his shop. What is he going to think if we go back to the way we were?'
Had Bamber got off his backside, walked the streets and done his homework, he would have found 'the way we were': two vehicles regularly parked all day outside the greengrocer, a car and a van, both belonging to the greengrocer!
If the greengrocer was struggling, maybe he could try being polite to his customers and selling fresh produce at affordable prices, and of course not parking outside his shop all day.
For quality fruit and vegetables, people shop at the Tuesday market in Farnborough. One of those rare occasions when it is worth shopping in Farnborough.
Apart from North Camp, shoppers go further afield to Guildford, Farnham and Alton, three relatively unspoilt market towns where in addition to a wide range and choice of shops you will find in one town or the other a book festival, food festival, international music festival, summer festival, castles, a cathedral, green spaces, parks, pleasant riverside walks, regular farmers markets.
In Aldershot and Farnborough there is nothing, zilch, absolutely nothing, cultural and gastronomical wastelands. Not even a farmers market. The Deli in North Camp did try to run a few cultural events, but these sadly were very poorly attended.
In another part of Farnborough, Bamber introduced a ticket machine in a car park that served a pharmacy, a dentist and a local surgery. It was seen as a tax on the sick. Local councillor David Clifford kicked up such a stink about it that Bamber and Dibbs were forced into a humiliating climbdown and the ticket machine was withdrawn.
Maybe arrogant parking official Mike Bamber needs reminding of a case the Rotten Borough of Rushmoor lost at a Traffic Penalty Tribunal earlier in the year. Rushmoor had fined a motorist for parking on private property over which Rushmoor had no jurisdiction. The case had to be adjourned to allow Rushmoor to collect evidence. Not only did Rushmoor lose, they were heavily criticised by the Tribunal for their behaviour.
During the Farnborough International Airshow, useless Rushmoor official Mike Bamber cocked up yet again.
During the Airshow, Farnborough is gridlocked, local people with any sense avoid Farnborough. Local residents have visitors parking outside their house, noisy, abusive, dropping litter. I had direct personal experience of this on Friday evening, last of the trade days, when expensive vehicles pulled up onto the pavement almost running me down. They parked right outside a restaurant, the occupants too lazy to walk a few feet from a side road around the corner where there was plenty of room to park. One vehicle just parked in the middle of a busy main road with its hazard lights flashing. What better though does one expect from arms dealers who are in the business of killing people?
Bamber had the idea to implement parking restrictions, to display signs, issue permits to local residents, but once again he does not bother to first do his homework and check the facts. The signs were not lawful, the restrictions unenforceable. An appalling waste of public money. Did the arrogant Bamber admit he had got it wrong, apologise for wasting public money. Of course not, that would be far too much to expect.
'We put up the signs and we hope that it is a deterrent so that some people will see the signs and not park there.'
The only impact the restrictions had was to displace the nuisance parking into streets further away from the airfield, streets not normally effected by nuisance parking during the airshow (one pratt even parked part way across a road junction). An obvious outcome to anyone other than an incompetent council official.
The airshow organisers SBAC should do more to advise their visitors of the restricted local parking and encourage them to arrive by pubic transport. They should also be obliged to cover any costs to the local taxpayer.
Pete Castle, Angry traders pack parking fee meeting, Farnborough News, 27 June 2008
Pete Castle, Markings make parking restrictions 'incorrect', Farnborough News, 11 July 2008
Pete Castle, Wardens fail to enforce parking rules, Farnborough News, 18 July 2008
Marcus Mabberley, Galleries inaction is slammed, Aldershot News, 18 July 2008
Keith Parkins, Curitiba Designing a sustainable city, April 2006
Keith Parkins, Redevelopment of Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 9 April 2008
Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre in its final death throes, Indymedia UK, 21 April 2008
Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre - unsecured demolition site, Indymedia UK, 28 April 2008
Keith Parkins, More shops to close in Farnborough town centre, Indymedia UK, 23 June 2008
Keith Parkins, Aldershot Westgate Scandal, Indymedia UK, 26 June 2008
Keith Parkins, Aldershot ghost town, Indymedia UK, 30 June 2008
Keith Parkins, Farnborough town centre crisis worsens, Indymedia UK, 3 July 2008
Keith Parkins, Yuppie flats for sale, Indymedia UK, 8 July 2008
Keith Parkins, Collapse of town centre regeneration schemes, Indymedia UK, 14 July 2008
Keith Parkins, St Modwen financial crisis, Indymedia UK, 17 July 2008
Keith Parkins, Town centre regeneration schemes, Indymedia UK, 18 July 2008
Keith Parkins, North Camp car parking fiasco, unpublished letter sent to local comic (reproduced below)