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Wednesday, 30 March 2011
Back in Barcelona (part 2)

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The sun has set.

Posted by bigblue on 30/03/2011 at 08:22 PM
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Back in Barcelona

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Watching the setting of the sun.

Posted by bigblue on 30/03/2011 at 08:01 PM
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Sunday, 27 March 2011
British summer time

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Oxted in the Spring mists, taken from the Woldingham viewpoint. It’s been a somewhat tiring day this first day of British Summer Time. Perhaps an early night beckons.

Posted by bigblue on 27/03/2011 at 06:00 PM
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Saturday, 26 March 2011
How to photograph a bird

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Point camera at birdfeeder. Set remote timer to take one photo every 30 seconds. Retire from the scene. After several hours return and retrieve the photos. Well, three out of five hundred isn’t too bad.

Posted by bigblue on 26/03/2011 at 03:01 PM
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Friday, 25 March 2011
Oxted’s highlights

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Before and after the new lights were put in.  And reflecting on some of my earlier questions I suspect now that “more efficient lighting” (as described by the Surrey County Council) means “brighter lights” (in my book).

Posted by bigblue on 25/03/2011 at 08:40 PM
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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Surrey Parking Saga

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In case you didn’t notice there’s a local furore around the proposal by the Surrey County Council to introduce parking charges at a number of locations, including Oxted. There’s a local petition objecting to the proposals, which (depending on who you read) has either achieved 40,000 signatures (according to the LibDems) or 24,000 signatures (according to the BBC). But there’s very little information and rational debate on the issue. 

Let’s start with the proposals themselves:

In order to better manage on street parking in Surrey, we are proposing to introduce charging at busier locations. This will enable us to manage the parking more effectively, ensure better compliance and improve the turnover of the available parking space.

This should prove beneficial to local businesses, as it will allow more customers to park nearby each day, and to shoppers, as there will be fewer vehicles overstaying and taking up the spaces.

It will also allow us to manage our on street parking operation more efficiently and more economically, which may lead to additional money being available for improving Surrey’s roads.

At the moment in Oxted we have free parking, but there are timing restrictions: you cannot park for more than 1 hour at most on-street bays. There are parking attendants who monitor this and sporadically fine people who stay over the limit. The advantage of the proposed scheme seems to be that more resourcing would be available to ensure compliance.  In the past when I have looked at the parking situation I have highlighted that we have our local offenders, who are often the local business people themselves: Station Road East, Deliveries 1, Deliveries 2, Station Road West 1, Station Road West 2.

Ironic it is then that the local businesses are spearheading the campaign to oppose the introduction of parking fees:

In a letter to Mr Cameron, Paul Dashwood, who chairs Oxted Chamber of Commerce, said shoppers would head to superstores where parking is free.

He said: “Surrey County Council has financial difficulties so it wants to impose on-street parking charges in towns and villages to try to raise some money.

“Chambers of Commerce are horrified and so too are local people because these proposals are likely to kill off shops and businesses already struggling with the recession.”

The Conservative-controlled council has said the parking service last year made a £500,000 deficit, which is not sustainable.

Some Oxted businesses have even threatened to pull out of the town (but others have suggested that this is not likely). One local resident wrote “an alternative view” in a local paper (sorry not available online, so here’s an extract):

A local trader’s letter in your edition of 10th March bemoans competition from Bluewater where “parking is free”. There is no such thing as a free parking space. The cost has to be paid by someone. At shopping centres this falls on shop keepers. The provision of parking facilities is paid for through the level of rent on shops while maintenance and management is recovered as part of the service charge. Elsewhere in Tandridge these costs have fallen on local tax payers. Local businesses which benefit from public parking could enter into the spirit of localism and form community organisations to take over the service. They can then subsidise it out of the sustained turnover that they would enjoy as a result and achieve comparabiltiy with shopping centre tenants.

It seems to me that Mr Harvey of Caterham is missing something here. We already have parking spaces and they are owned by the community. Local businesses already contribute to the maintenance of these parking places (in rates). The issue is whether we move from one method of funding to another, where the motorist contributes something according to their use of the facility. Taxes won’t come down, but some of the burden will be shifted to pay-as-you-go “charges”, so this could be seen as some kind of “stealth tax”.

Personally I am against the introduction of the parking fees. I am not convinced by the Surrey County Council’s argument to change the current system. The system would cost £1.5 million to set up and £750,000 per year to maintain and I wonder how much income it would generate. A cheaper method for the Council to ensure compliance might be to licence local businesses to do enforcement (ticket motorists who exceed the time limits). There is also an issue today where motorists park in residential streets and walk into the town center/station. Town centre parking charges will only increase that problem. Hence I am one of the 24,000 people (or 40,000 if you are inclined to exaggeration) who signed the petition.

What I would also like to see is the provision of more parking spaces (and loading zones!), introduction of a 20 mph speed limit in the town, the provision of proper cycle lanes, more bicycle parking and perhaps pedestrianisation of certain areas.  These measures would encourage people to use their cars less, it would be safer for children and adults alike to walk and cycle into town and to school. I believe something along these lines would provide an “opportunity benefit” and improve the quality of life for residents and businesses in Oxted.

Posted by bigblue on 23/03/2011 at 07:13 PM
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Friday, 18 March 2011
Lost or abandoned?

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Who can tell? A cheap green watch found abandoned on the basin in a disabled toilet.

Posted by bigblue on 18/03/2011 at 07:33 AM
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Thursday, 17 March 2011
Royal Albert Hall

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I found myself here last night to see/hear a charity concert organised by Classic FM radio station featuring the Orchestra of Opera North as well as various other artists. An enjoyable evening even if the Classic FM presenters (hosting the evening) were somewhat cheesy.

Just after I took this photograph a man came up to me and offered to take my photo if I took his. I explained that I didn’t want a photograph of myself and he left. Apparently he didn’t much care for a photo of himself either, or perhaps this had been a ploy to steal my phone and I had foiled it.

Posted by bigblue on 17/03/2011 at 05:50 AM
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