Editor’s comment: Is there a solution to Highgate CPZ deadlock?

Elspeth Clements and Michael Hammerson stand next to a sign with Highgate's current parking hours. P

Elspeth Clements and Michael Hammerson stand next to a sign with Highgate's current parking hours. Picture: POLLY HANCOCK - Credit: Archant

Few things can enrage a community so effectively as a Controlled Parking Zone.

It is the Brexit of the high street, pitting shops against homeowners, businesses against politicians, drivers against... other drivers. It is a mainstay of local news, in the capital if not the country, and oddly reassuring to see people still arguing about one in 2019 given that nearly everything else we hold dear about the civilised world has more or less collapsed.

There are some easy places to pick holes in this one. It’s a bureaucratic absurdity that Camden polled only half the high street, considering the likely impact on both sides.

Secondly, it’s not great that the consultation returned a different result (albeit one with even more marginal a result than the Brexit vote) from the one now being pursued: councils should be able to do what they believe is in the public interest, but don’t ask people what they think if you’re going to act in spite of the outcome – they won’t trust you again.

It’s harder, though, to be constructive. Critics say the area is poorly served by public transport, meaning the CPZ could threaten the livelihood of local businesses. But I’m not convinced Camden should have to lobby, and wait, for TfL to introduce a new bus route before trying to reduce car use.

On the other hand, will a CPZ actually achieve that? Favouring some drivers over others – residents over shoppers – doesn’t seem that eco-friendly, especially if it disproportionately hits local traders (whose carbon footprints are likely to be lower than supermarkets). Could residents be given an incentive to get rid of their cars, rather than purely targeting shops and shoppers?

Perhaps the best we can say is that any council whose actions harm local traders should share responsibility for their recovery, whether that means promoting them, running a shuttle bus, helping them bid for town hall contracts, or something more imaginative. And we, for our part, should support our local shops – but we must do so sustainably.