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Battle lines drawn in school run row

PUBLISHED: 18:09 07 June 2007 | UPDATED: 14:33 07 September 2010

PARENTS and residents are at loggerheads after a £10,000 council consultation failed to find a clear solution to Hampstead's school run parking chaos. The results of a six-week public consultation on controversial

By Marc Mullen

PARENTS and residents are at loggerheads after a £10,000 council consultation failed to find a clear solution to Hampstead's school run parking chaos.

The results of a six-week public consultation on controversial school run parking permits was published on Monday and the council has set up a special scrutiny panel session to discuss the report next week.

Councillors are arranging private meetings with officers over the next two weeks, before they come to a final decision on June 21.

Deputy council leader Andrew Marshall said: "This is clearly a very challenging issue, which we are giving a lot of thought to this week and next.

"The detail of the report is very important, but the broad thrust is what we thought we would hear."

The Tories and Lib Dems gave a pre-election pledge to review Camden's unique school run permits scheme which allows parents to park outside school gates for 15 minutes before and after school.

A total of 1,012 residents, 1,040 parents, 1,752 children, 14 residents associations and 12 schools responded to the consultation, reflecting the depth of feeling.

And an overwhelming 87 per cent of school run parents want permits to remain at their current levels.

This was also the most popular option among residents but 48 per cent of residents without children want permits completely withdrawn from next month.

Vicky Fobel, co-chairwoman of the School Travel Action Group (Stag) which represents school run parents, said: "The majority, 59 per cent, of individuals who responded to the survey favour keeping permits at their current level.

"Residents associations are not voicing the views of residents as a whole."

"In the past Camden Council has given far too much weight to the views of residents associations and ignored the silent majority."

But Farokh Khorooshi, chairman of the Fitzjohn's Avenue Residents Association, said: "You cannot trust the consultation results. I signed in as Genghis Khan with 129 children and my submission was accepted."

The permits were introduced in 2003 and the number has been reduced by 20 per cent each year since - they were due to be phased out by next September.

Some 95 per cent of the 5,461 households represented by residents associations want the existing policy to continue.

Labour Cllr Penny Abraham, who sits on the School Run Steering Group, said: "The prior administration was working towards phasing out the permits and I still think that is the right thing to do."

Council environment chief Cllr Mike Greene said: "There aren't really any surprises in these consultation results. It shows that residents still feel very strongly about the traffic issues caused by the school run, and schools and parents still want the option of driving children to school.

"I don't think schools and parents have used the last five years as wisely as they could have to develop ideas for alternatives to the school run."

Of those who responded 83 per cent of respondents said traffic levels had not improved despite the reduction in permits.

marc.mullen@hamhigh.co.uk

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