topic The head hunters of Haringey
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FANTASY and fact are not always clearly distinguished even in what seems to be a straightforward news item. We can never be entirely. sure whether we are expected to believe what we read. Reports about the Haringey Bill provide a good example of what can happen.
There seems no doubt that this London borough means business with its proposal to ban the overnight parking of goods vehicles weighing over 24 tons unladen; even though it is difficult to understand why this particular limit has been chosen as the point beyond which the lorry becomes intolerable. Perhaps there is some mystical connection with metrication and the change to decimal currency.
Vehicles parked in a street can be offensive—or aesthetically unpleasing if one is being polite—or a nuisance or a danger, or any combination of the three. Apparently, the main complaint in Haringey is of annoyance to residents, especially from lorries which are left night after night by local operators or drivers who have no garage space of their own or find it a convenience to have the vehicle near to where they are sleeping.
IF other people object—and of course, not everybody does—the local authority cannot be blamed for taking action. During the day, long stretches of street and road have been turned effectively into clearways, except for picking up or setting down, or have been fitted with meters under the supervision of traffic wardens. The motorist has to pay for outstaying his welcome or for disregarding a prohibition.
Haringey intends to follow the same principle at night, and, indeed, to take it further. During the prohibited period there will be no stretch of kerbside available to the lorry and the penalties will be substantial--£20 for a first offence and £50 for each subsequent offence. The one mitigating factor is that the authority appears to accept the obligation to provide suitable off-street parking.
Other local authorities already have legislation not unlike what Haringey now proposes. Lack of information about how effective the ban has been elsewhere has not deterred Haringey. According to press reports, at least one novelty will be introduced when the Haringey Bill becomes law.
AS one Sunday newspaper has put it "Haringey wants to recruit a team of inspectors to tour its streets between 9 pm and 7 am and track down the heavy vehicles." Here is the point at which the reader's suspension of disbelief becomes less willing than it is normally. It would not be the first time that a reporter has been led up the garden.
On the other hand, the idea is so entertaining that one might wish it true. If it is put into effect there should be some interesting nocturnal confrontations in Haringey later this year. It is just as well for the inspectors that they should travel as a team, like the Keystone Cops. More often than not, while carrying out their duties, they must expect a warm reception from the lorry driver and his friends, neighbours and relations.
Once the first enthusiasm has died down, the legislation, like so much other legislation affecting road users, will fall into disuse and contempt. The ratepayers will become tired of subsidizing an army of inspectors on double time for a shift of 10 hours seven nights a week. The police have what they might consider much more important work to do.
ACCORDING to the report, a survey in Haringey revealed 582 vehicles over 2+ tons parked in the streets. Rather than count the vehicles, it might have helped the local authority more to discover who owned them. Most reputable operators, but not all, have their own parking accommodation off the road. Failure to provide it does not automatically mean the refusal of an operator's licence, but it is likely that the Licensing Authority will look even more closely than usual at the credentials and facilities of an applicant who has to confess that he regularly leaves his lorries in the street.
Such an applicant will still be a good operator. He is likely to have a small business, perhaps a single vehicle. Other more dubious operators may form part of the large and growing army who, it is often alleged, are not greatly bothered about licensing or other nice points of the law. If they have successfully evaded detection in the past, they should not find it difficult to get round the new restrictions on night parking.
IT is notorious that an afarming proportion of road users pay no vehicle , licence duty, contravene other laws and regulations, ignore requests for the payment of fines, and still seem to keep beyond the reach of the authorities. In spite of this, the need for parking meters, yellow lines and so
on is generally accepted. It is all the more important that additional regulations should be imposed and enforced only to the extent that they are clearly seen to be necessary.
Local authorities ought to be satisfied with enabling legislation. If a parked vehicle is doing no harm, and nobody complains, it seems absurd to insist that it be moved and to punish the driver or owner for leaving it where it is. On the other hand, when the police believe it is causing an obstruction or a danger, or when one or more members of the public complain, the local authority should have the right to order the vehicle away.
0N this basis, the legislation could be widened to include vehicles of all kinds. In the ordinary course of events, people are unlikely to object to the parking of cars, but there may be cases where a nuisance is created arid the local authority would find an advantage in having the power necessary to deal with the situation.
Perhaps because there are fewer goods vehicle operators than motorists, their feelings do not have to receive so much consideration. There is also a growing hostility to the lorry, whether it is moving or standing still. Its supporters may have to pay more attention to this aspect of public opinion when they consider future proposals from local authorities.
WHAT Haringey has in mind is not greatly different from provisions already enacted in scores of other towns and districts. The customary and sensible response has been to insist on the right sequence of priorities. If lorries are to be kept off the streets at night, there must not only be somewhere for them to go, but the parking area must be within a reasonable distance, the fee must be moderate if it cannot be waived altogether, there must be a minimum standard of security with perhaps a special compound for vehicles with valuable loads, and there must be provision in the park itself or not far away for drivers coming from a distance to get adequate food and accommodation.
These facilities are essential. Insistence on them must not be regarded as an admission by the road transport industry that the lorry driver is a pariah and the lorry an obnoxious creation of the Devil that must be concealed from the sight of all decent people. It is false logic to argue that, because off-street parking is provided, not a single lorry should be allowed to stay in the street.
THE point needs to be emphasized if only to help the conscientious ownerdriver. It may be economic as well as convenient to leave his lorry outside his door, and where he happens to live it may offend nobody. He is providing a service that might cost more, or might even no longer be possible, if he is forced to use a park some distance away.