“Pickles and Hammond to end the war on motorists.”
The Department for Communities and Local Government put these words in a press release and today 221 national and local newspaper journalists* copypasted them into their newspapers, noticing nothing nonsensical in their conjunction. Great job, The Media.
The press release was announcing the abolition of two ten year old Labour policies: Planning Policy Guidance 13: Transport (PPG13), and Planning Policy Statement 3: Housing (PPS3). The department spin this as the abolition of an “encouragement” to local councils to charge for town-centre car parking, and of a rule that limited car parking in new developments in the hope that fewer residents would own cars as a result.
Given that the war “on” motorists is a war between motorists as ever more of them compete for increasingly scarce land and resources, these policies will of course merely serve to make people’s lives even more miserable as they sit in a whole new level of congestion. Not that I expect there to be any noticeable difference to most people’s lives as a result of this policy — it’s a drop in the ocean given the mess that we’re in. And anyway, the policy merely devolves these decisions to local councils, who are unlikely to make any changes given their own dire situations.
Philip Hammond said, “this Government recognises that cars are a lifeline for many people.” Which is interesting, because a lifeline is “a line to which a drowning or falling victim may cling to.” The person on the end of a lifeline did not intend to be there, and he does not intend to stay there. To get there, something has gone wrong, and the lifeline user intends to leave the lifeline behind as soon his feet are safely back on solid ground. Lots of people will tell you that they have no choice but to drive a car, but most of them would rather they didn’t have to. The car is a lifeline that have grasped after the doctor’s surgery closed, and then the butcher and baker closed, and then the library closed, and then the post-office closed — all because of the rise of car-dependent development around them. These people don’t want to have to drive twenty miles to town. They want their services back. Philip Hammond’s policy is to encourage new developments that force people to use a car against their will; he’s pushing you overboard and expecting you to be grateful as you’re dragged along on a “lifeline”.
On the announcement, “Decentralisation Minister” Greg Clark said something that is actually mostly true:
“Limiting the number of drives and garages in new homes doesn’t make cars disappear – it just clogs residential roads with parked cars and makes drivers cruise the streets hunting for a precious parking space.”
But this is no excuse for giving up. It is a fact that there is far more wrong with recent development patterns than just car parking; car parking alone does not create car dependent communities. But we have to tackle all of the problems — we need more action, not less — and car parking was a start, at least.
And of course, Hammond again plugs his hoverboard development programme. I know I should have no reason to be surprised by the depths to which British politicians and newspapers can sink, but the scale of the current farce is just amazing. It looks like Hammond’s entire tenure as transport minister will be based on the recurring pantomime of riding his magic car to rescue the beautiful Motorist from the nasty Labour men and their War. Apparently this is the “new kind of politics“.