Man directing person into parking space

Goldsmith should be wary of free parking

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Zac Goldsmith demands our attention. Not only is the MP for Richmond Park handsome, affable and rich, but he’s also in the running to replace Boris Johnson as the Mayor of London. He hasn’t yet been installed as the Conservative candidate for that contest, but the bookies already have him as favourite to triumph in the end. He could soon be overseeing our nation’s capital.

Zac Goldsmith Tweet
[Zac Goldsmith source: Twitter]
So, what’s Goldsmith saying now? An example is provided in the tweet above. In it, he celebrates the fact that Richmond is allowing cars to park for free, for 30 minutes, in an effort to get more people into the township’s shops and cafes. Huzzah! Here on the LeasePlan blog, we’re all for cars, businesses and saving money. What could be wrong with a policy that has an eye on all of these things?

Erm, well, a lot – potentially. As we have blogged before, when Aberystwyth loosened its own parking restrictions, good intentions don’t always bring good results. If you don’t mind us quoting ourselves:

‘During this short period when parking became a free for all, it was more or less impossible to drive in the town. All this suggests that… motorists may not always be better off when fines and parking restrictions are low, or abandoned altogether.’

Richmond’s policy isn’t the same as Aberystwyth’s, but the risks are similar. By encouraging more cars into the town centre, you may get exactly what you wish for: more cars in the town centre. And that could mean congestion, which could in turn put some people off going shopping. The policy might be self-defeating.

Besides, all of this sits awkwardly with the Richmond MP’s green credentials. Like we said, we’re all for cars and high streets and all that. It’s just that, if he becomes Mayor, Goldsmith could find himself presiding over a Congestion Charge that looks to reduce the traffic in central London, whilst also encouraging traffic in London’s suburbs. He could be preaching environmentalism, whilst also urging us to get in our gas guzzlers.

And the capital’s voters might well ask: where’s the consistency in that?

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