Wednesday, 27 April 2016

Park and ride car parks increase car usage

A guest blog post from Green councillor Josh Williams on park-and-ride car parks:

What’s the evidence on park and ride car parks?

A quick look around the web shows that there is now a growing body of evidence for the impact of a ‘park and ride’ carpark in or near a town.

You can look at the Wikipedia entry if you like, where one study notes that ‘the survival of local politicians is dependent upon [a car park's] continuation, irrespective of its actual success.’

Or if you don’t trust Wikipedia you could look at blogs written by actual people like this one about how park and rides encourage car use:

Or if you prefer a more academic study, you could have a longer read showing that two thirds of park and rides have no effect or increase car journeys:

Perhaps it’s worth considering how one of our fairly close neighbours, Bath, have been looking at a proposed park and ride recently, where they note that ‘Academic evidence seriously questions the assumption that Park and Rides reduce vehicle use’:

How does it increase use? More journeys are made as people make a car trip to the new car park that they otherwise wouldn't have. More bus journeys are taken from the car park, and as more people consider that congestion into town might have eased, they too make a new car journey into town that they otherwise wouldn't have. Traffic into town remains in the same awful congested state, plus the park and ride traffic.

What do we think about the East Reading park-and-ride (and link road into Reading town centre)?

We think that the evidence shows that it is possible to use a limited park and ride scheme in a really integrated transport solution. That solution needs great cycling infrastructure. It needs cheap, reliable, frequent public transport (both buses and trains). It needs 20mph limits across town to encourage walking and cycling in relative safety, and it needs a whole host of other measures like closing town centre parking (in an ideal world this would make way for good quality social housing) that the Labour administration for some reason refuse to implement. 

Without that; it’s just another car park, just more congestion, and just more pollution in our already polluted air. Any car park mustn't just tarmac over our precious green space. We need to preserve the space by the Thames as a natural resource for our children and our children’s children. Even in a well-integrated scheme, location is everything. 

Instead of putting a park-and-ride on the Thames-side and a link road over Kennet Mouth into the town centre, surely a more sensible option would be to introduce an integrated transport system as described above. Then we could put another level on the new Winnersh park and ride (meaning no loss of green space), and removing that number of parking spaces from Reading town centre would truly cut car journeys into town.

The Labour party in Reading call all of this evidence the ‘big lie’. We call it the ‘big question’: why do they think it’s a good idea to cover over our precious green space with tarmac and increase car journeys to and through Reading? This is a question they have yet to answer.

What do you think?

Unlike Labour, we’re listening. Let us know what you think.


PS: if you’re interested, a news item on this appeared on the getreading website in November 2015 and a petition has been raised by concerned local residents here:

Monday, 25 April 2016

Sand martins back in East Reading

Another guest blog post from Debbie on East Reading wildlife. This time, the sand martins are back...

If you go down to Kennetside now, you will be able to see the sand martin colony that returns to this area every spring to breed. Their normal nesting habitat would be in burrows that they excavate in places like sandy river banks and quarry faces, but in East Reading these resourceful birds utilise old drainage pipes in walls and bridges in which to build their nests. One of the best places to spot them is on the Newtown side of the railway bridge that the Horseshoe Bridge is attached to. Look up at the drainage pipes and you will see them flying in and out. They also sometimes use the old drainage pipes in the walls of the Kennet as you walk into town and also near to Bel and the Dragon.

They are small birds with short, forked tails. They are very similar to house martins, which can also be seen nesting in Newtown, but these make mud nest under the eaves of buildings.

Sand martins have brown wings and a pale underside with a distinctive brown band under their chin. House martins are bluey black with a pale underside and a distinctive white rump. These features can be difficult to spot when they fly so fast, but if you see birds flying in and out of these old drainage pipes then you can be sure that these are the sand martins. They also give fantastic aerial displays over the water as they hunt for insects.

The other bird species that martins are sometimes confused with, are:
Swallows – these are small birds with glossy blue backs, red throats and pale underparts, but their really distinguishing feature is their long, tapering forked tail, the forks often described as ‘streamers’. You may see them feeding over the Thames.

Swifts – these are larger than martins and swallows, are uniformly dark brown (although they appear black in the sky) and with short forked tails. They have distinctive scythe-shaped wings and can be seen every summer flying very fast around Newtown (often very high in the sky) in small flocks with a piercing ‘scream’. They tend to arrive a bit later than the sand martins and are usually the first to leave as well.

Follow these links for more information, including photographs and comparisons between each species described above:

Friday, 22 April 2016

Council says yes to alternative Big Lunch date avoiding Ramadan

The Big Lunch is a nationwide street party. The council will let you close your street for free (subject to approval). As Reading is a diverse place I was contacted by one street wanting to organise a Big Lunch street party a week early to avoid Ramadan...and the council says yes. See below for more information.

"I have been forwarded your enquiry regarding whether the residents could hold their ‘Big Lunch’ street party on 5 June as opposed to the weekend of 11/12 June which is the official weekend designated for Big Lunch/Queen’s 90th Birthday celebrations.

"I have spoken with colleagues in Network Management, and they have checked and  said that they would be able to include the  street party if  it took place  on 5th June.  The residents still  need to go through the application process at  - but if approved the street closure fee will be waived as with those approved parties taking place on 11/12 June."

Tuesday, 19 April 2016

Reading council needs to be more transparent over education

At a recent education committee I was disappointed that there was no breakdown of A-level (Key stage 5) performance separating out the selective (grammar) schools. So I asked the council to provide me with this information – see the bar chart above showing average points score (APS) per examination entry.

Key to the bar chart:
LA = local authority (Reading)
LA non-selective = how we do if you remove the selective (grammar) schools
SN average = how our statistical neighbours are doing (Brighton, Bristol, Southampton and so on)

Because the selective schools take academic high achievers from across an area which goes far beyond Reading's boundaries, including them in our overall results distorts things massively as you can see from the graph.

As you can see when the selective schools are removed the Local Authority goes from being one of the best local authorities in the country to worse than our statistical neighbours, and worse than the England average.

Last week OFSTED slammed the council over the performance of Reading schools with regards to GCSE results and students on free school meals. Again this was another area that was mentioned in the report, but the scale of the problem was not.

If the council is going to improve its performance at working with schools to better educate our young people, first of all it needs to be transparent about what the current situation is and recognise the scale of the challenge ahead of it.

Now that many schools in Reading are academies and following government cuts to council education improvement budgets, the council is less able to support schools. But along with the regional school commissioners the council is still accountable and responsible for making sure Reading children receive a great education. Green councillors will keep lobbying the Council to make this a reality.