Lib Dems challenge Merton Council on car parking charges

Merton Liberal Democrats challenged Labour on the fairness and the effectiveness of the new parking charges policy at improving air quality. 

The move comes after an emergency meeting on Tuesday 8th December to examine new charges proposed for April 2021. Parking charges in Wimbledon and Raynes Park have already been increased by over 130% in January - whilst charges in other parts of the borough have remained lower.

Leader of the Liberal Democrat group Cllr Anthony Fairclough stated:

 “We opposed the January 2020 location-based charges, on grounds that they were unlikely to improve air quality. The new scheme retains those higher charges for Wimbledon and Raynes Park, and also applies to visitors permits, so residents would pay more or less depending on the type of car their visitor or tradesman drives. We have real concerns about whether this new scheme will work to achieve its supposed aims.

Councillor Fairclough and the Liberal Democrats proposed FOUR new solutions to make the plan fairer:

  1. Time to switch to less polluting vehicles. Merton Council has a role to play in encouraging residents to switch to less polluting vehicles – but it has to support people to do so. Pushing the scheme back to a January 2022 start date would give those who can afford to buy new vehicles fair warning to change.
  2. A low mileage discount or rebate. It's driving, not parking, that pollutes. This would encourage people to drive less to get the discount.
  3. Fair charges for visitors permits. The proposals charge residents based on the vehicles their visitors drive. There doesn't seem to be any logical way that this will result in better air quality. 
  4. Extra cash raised should be spent on improving air quality and fighting climate change. Residents need to know that their money will contribute to cutting carbon emissions, developing sustainable travel measures and improving air quality. There should greater transparency about what the money raised from these new charges is spent on.

All four ideas were knocked back by Labour party councillors. 

However the decision is not finalised yet. Join us and our campaign continuing to fight for changes by volunteering here.

A real say on Wimbledon’s skyline

Labour and Conservative councillors failed to back a vote that would have given people more control over building heights in Wimbledon planning applications. 

On Wednesday 18 November, Merton Liberal Democrats demanded residents' strong opposition to huge increases in building heights in be respected - but other councillors failed to support this.

Lib Dem councillors lodged an amendment to the new planning rules for Wimbledon to remove a loophole weakening planning controls, and to instead put in place a restriction on heights of no more than 10 storeys.

The current tallest building in Wimbledon is 9 storeys, but the Labour plan allows buildings of up to 12 storeys. However, it also includes vague wording on 'indicative building heights' that would allow developers to go even beyond this. 

Lib Dem Council group leader Cllr Anthony Fairclough said:

“We urged Labour Council bosses to make a simple change to the plan for Wimbledon town centre to reflect residents' real opposition inappropriately tall buildings. 

“It was also disappointing to see Tory councillors choose party politics over people's concerns by not supporting our amendment. In doing so, they just backed the status quo, which doesn't place any real planning restrictions on building heights at all.”

Merton Liberal Democrats have now started a petition calling on the Council to ensure residents still have a say on Wimbledon’s skyline. 

For more details, see also the Future Wimbledon Supplementary Planning Document, the amendment put forward by Merton Liberal Democrats, and Cllr Simon McGrath's speech

Merton must draw up a tree & biodiversity strategy

Since drawing up a cross-party climate emergency declaration last year, Merton Council has made some progress on climate issues. But there's still much more to do.

That's why Merton Liberal Democrats are calling on the Council to include a Tree & Biodiversity Strategy in their climate action plan. We also identified a possible funding stream to spend on new trees & their maintenance. 

Unfortunately, at November's council meeting, Merton Labour councillors voted against our suggestions. But we'll continue pushing for Merton to do more to tackle the climate emergency. 

The Coronavirus pandemic means that our usual ways of staying in touch with people are difficult. So if you'd like to receive our monthly email newsletters, or for someone to call you to chat about local issues, please let us know by filling in this form.

We're calling for action now

Merton Liberal Democrats are extremely concerned about Merton’s low vaccination rates. Even before the pandemic came along, our borough had one of the country’s worst records for childhood vaccine levels. And Merton's record is similarly poor for vaccinations recommended for adults.  

As we move forward with COVID-19, this is a tragedy. 

The low level of vaccination in the borough must impact negatively on the NHS in the winter months. And when a vaccine for coronavirus does become available, it's unlikely that the overall poor level of take-up will improve without urgent action.

Merton Council must get to grips with tackling this issue.

That's why we called for urgent action at the November council meeting.

The Coronavirus pandemic means that our usual ways of staying in touch with people are difficult. So if you'd like to receive our monthly email newsletters, or for someone to call you to chat about local issues, please let us know by filling in this form.

Our clean air plan

The Liberal Democrats have a plan to clean our air and make our streets safer for our young people.

Merton Council recently consulted on their plans to introduce emissions based parking charges. We would support proposals that encouraged residents to use greener transport options where possible. However, we do not believe that the current proposals from the Council will be effective in doing this.

Instead, the Council’s proposals seem designed to raise revenue and, following on from the changes in 2019/2020, the proposed system still penalises the parts of the borough that don’t vote for Labour councillors. 

While the Tories want no action and Labour’s plans will not solve the problem, the Liberal Democrats offer an alternative which will encourage more people to walk, cycle and use public transport where possible, while recognising that many people rely on cars for various reasons.

Liberal Democrats want to see the Council supporting residents in moving to less polluting vehicles where possible, alongside improved cycle lanes and bike parking, better public transport, and more electric vehicle charging infrastructure. 

Find out more about our response to the Council’s consultation here.

Hiking parking charges isn’t fair, liberal, or progressive. But neither is doing nothing.

The Coronavirus pandemic means that our usual ways of staying in touch with people are difficult. So if you'd like to receive our monthly email newsletters, or for someone to call you to chat about local issues, please let us know by filling in this form.

Reporting back on discussions with Reston Waste

I recently met with Andrew Reston of Reston Waste to discuss constituents' concerns regarding the operation of HGVs across Wimbledon. Andrew, and his daughter Harriett (Transport Manager), stressed their commitment to the community (as evidenced by their sponsorship of Wimbledon AFC) and how keen they are to address residents' legitimate concerns. As Gold accredited members of the Fleet Operators Recognition Scheme (FORS) they have also invested time and money in training their staff, improving their procedures and maintaining and improving their fleet and are keen to demonstrate their adherence to FORS operating requirements.

Our discussions centred on noise, routing and speeding/safety. 

NOISE: Residents are justifiably concerned about the noise from skip lorries and Andrew accepts this to be an issue. As every vehicle in his fleet is renewed within three years of purchase he has guaranteed that he will now only purchase skip lorries with chain sleeves. He will also retro fit every vehicle in his current fleet, which is not due to be renewed in the next 12 months, with similar device to stop the chains clanking around. In addition to the noise from chains he is also aware that the skips when empty tend to clang as they move in transit. He has previously invested in skip clamps to prevent this from happening but had to remove them as they were damaging the skips. In light of our discussion he has now committed to investigating how these might re-introduced. Under the FORS accreditation scheme Reston Waste are also required to appoint a Noise Champion who can be contacted on [email protected] if you have any particular concerns.

ROUTING: Although Reston Waste do endeavour to inform drivers regarding street restrictions etc there are currently two difficulties to overcome. Firstly the records maintained by Webfleet Solutions a Bridgestone company (from whom fleet operators get their information) are not up to date as there have been problems getting the requisite information. I have consequently committed to speaking with the Council to determine where the logjam is occurring. Secondly, even if the system was up to date, it is a manual one that is often not consulted when the driver is assigned a route. Andrew has consequently committed to investing in a Webfleet solutions  service that incorporates  the restrictions in the HGV's Sat Nav system. I also raised the need for HGVs to avoid school streets where possible and I have agreed to provide him with details of every school street so that Harriett can devise a routing system to minimise their use. 

SPEEDING/SAFETY: The company are rightly keen to address any issues of speeding and dangerous driving and each HGV is fitted with eight cameras which can be remotely accessed along with data on speed etc. If residents are concerned about an incident they should contact the office on 0208-944-1349 or by email [email protected] and provided them with as much information as possible i.e. vehicle registration, location, time and date for prompt communication and investigation.

I was impressed by Andrew and Harriett's desire to work with the community in improving relations and I'd like to publicly thank them for their commitment. They believe they are not infrequently blamed when the culprit is another firm and I hope the above processes will begin to address their concerns in this regard. To aid transparency Andrew has also agreed to include a page on his company website detailing complaints and how they were resolved which will give all of us an opportunity to see how things are progressing. 

I do hope we can all work constructively on this and I will be very happy to organise a meeting with Andrew and Harriett to discuss any continuing concerns once these measures have had time to bed in. Reston Waste plays an important role in the community, both in providing an essential service and in paying business rates and rent to the Council, and I am consequently keen to show how we can work together, before approaching other local operators. 

Best wishes,

Cllr Paul Kohler

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary Spokesperson for Wimbledon


Consultation on emission based parking charges

Response from the Liberal Democrat group


Merton Liberal Democrats believe the Council should be using its powers to encourage residents to use cars less, and switch to less polluting vehicles where possible. However, we do not believe that the current proposals from the Council will be effective in doing this. Instead they appear to have been designed to raise revenue, and to do so in a way which in our opinion still (following the 2019/2020 increases) penalises parts of the Borough that don’t tend to return Labour councillors.

We need an integrated plan which will:

  • Encourage Merton residents to walk, cycle and use public transport more

  • Encourage residents to shift to less polluting vehicles and provide them with support to do so

  • Recognise that many residents will continue to need to use cars and that some will have low mileage

As we mentioned in our 2019 consultation response, a key factor is providing real, practical help to enable residents to switch to greener transport options. We set out some ideas towards this in our consultation response. If an emissions-based model is to be used, these proposals must be tested and shaped using evidence from the Council’s review of the diesel levy and emissions based charges, and learning lessons from similar schemes adopted by other London Boroughs.

Our full consultation response is available here.

Pubs in urgent “Keep the lights on” protest at 10pm curfew

Ahead of a crunch vote in the House of Commons next week, the Liberal Democrats have teamed up with pubs, restaurants and community clubs across the country to launch a “Keep the lights on” campaign in protest at the 10pm curfew.

Liberal Democrat Parliamentary spokesperson, Cllr Paul Kohler said:
"As a small business owner I know first hand the disastrous impact that the curfew is having on responsible hospitality venues in Wimbledon and across London. 
"The government has not provided any evidence that the curfew is good for public health, and nor have they provided any financial assistance to support businesses that have been affected. 

"It is time for Ministers to either come forward with the evidence, or rethink the curfew. Stephen Hammond should stand up for local pubs and refuse to back Boris Johnson’s curfew.”

Venues across the country, including Cllr Kohler's bar, flashed their lights in an 'SOS' Morse Code pattern in the minutes after the enforced shutdown on Friday and Saturday. The campaign is supported by both the Campaign for Real Ale and the Night Time Industry Association.

The Liberal Democrats want to see a return to staggered leaving times instead of a 10pm closure that has seen mass crowds on the streets and public transport.

With rates on the rise in some parts of the country, Liberal Democrats are also calling on the Government to guarantee that furlough remains available to businesses that are put into lockdown while not penalising those that can open with the arbitrary 10pm curfew. 

Deputy Leader of the Liberal Democrats Daisy Cooper, who launched the campaign, said:


Read more

School Streets Consultation

Merton Council has implemented (or is in the process of doing so) several 'School Streets' in roads around schools across the borough. These measures are designed to deter car trips for the `school run' by restricting motorised access in and out of the identified roads during the morning school opening and afternoon school closing periods under an Experimental Traffic Management Order (ETMO).

Read more

Active Travel FAQs

Coronavirus has changed the way we travel - with public transport capacity restricted more people are considering active travel options. We've put together some handy FAQs to help you incorporate active travel into your day.

Q - How can I find walking routes without air & noise pollution?

A - The Go Jauntly App has teamed up with environmental researchers Tranquil City to suggest walking routes which are exposed to less air & noise pollution, and which include more green space. Central London Footways also provides a map of quiet and interesting walking routes between major landmarks in London, including train stations, popular destinations and green spaces.

Q - I want to start cycling but I'm nervous, what support is available?

A - Free cycle training is available for cyclists of all abilities. TFL's online Cycle Skills course offers four short modules with tips & advice to get you going. There's also free (in person) cycling courses offered in each borough. Bankside Bike Train offers a free, guided bike rides from Clapham Junction to Bankside (plus a couple of other routes). Check out these tips for cycling safely in London.

Q - I have limited mobility, is there any specific support to help me start cycling?

The Wheels for Wellbeing organisation is set up to remove barriers to cycling. They have a fleet of inclusive bikes which people can try out at inclusive cycling sessions. They offer independent advice to help find a cycling solution that works for you.

Q - I want to walk between stations to avoid taking the tube, but how long will the journey take me?

A - TFL have put together a handy `walking time between stations' map, so that you can check how long it will take you to replace a tube journey with walking.

Q - I don't own a bike, can I still cycle in London?

A - There are over 11,500 bicycles which can be hired at 750 docking stations across London. Find your nearest docking station here. The Santander cycle app can make it easier to find a docking station and hire a bike.

Q - I need to use public transport, what's the best time to travel?

A - Generally the quiet times to travel on public transport are 8:15 - 16:00 and after 17:30 on weekdays, and before noon and after 18:00 on weekends. This varies between stations though - you can check quiet times for a specific station here.

Q - I want to cycle for part of my journey, can I carry my bike on public transport the rest of the way?

A - Folded cycles can be taken on public transport services at all times (although on buses drivers can refuse entry if the bus is too busy). Non-folded cycles can be taken on some services at specific times - check your journey here. We've put together a summary of when non-folding bikes can be taken on trains from Merton here.

Q - How do I keep my bike safe in London?

A - The Met has put together advice on how to keep your bike safe from thieves. There are also some useful tips on how to keep your bike clean, how to repair a puncture, and what to do if you run into a mechanical problem while out on your ride.

Q - Are there any good courses to help my children learn to cycle safely?

A - The Pedal Project has been recommended to us!


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