Magazine

Big Ben

I Wonder If He Got a Ticket for Overstaying?

Peter Guest

Right now, we in the UK probably have the most famous carpark in the world, here in Leicester. There’s nothing special about it, per se; it serves the Council’s Social Services Department – a few square meters of tarmac behind a nondescript brick building.

But, as I am sure many of you know, what makes it special is that last autumn, archaeologists removed the remains of a man who was buried in what had been Greyfriars Priory Church. They quickly established that he had been wealthy from his diet (the plaque on his teeth); had died violently in the latter part of the 15th century; and suffered from severe scoliosis, curvature of the spine.

The “dig” was partly sponsored by the Richard III Society, an organization dedicated to rehabilitate the last Plantagenet King of England, who suffers a pretty thorough character assassination in the eponymous play by Shakespeare. The play was written during the reign of Elizabeth I, and her grandfather, Henry Tudor, was the gent who did Richard in. DNA tests have shown the skeleton is Richard’s and, as they say, the rest is history.

I have just watched a very interesting program about the excavation and subsequent research, which has some interesting contrasts between the objectivity of the scientists and the rather less robust behavior of the “Ricardists” as they call themselves. One gentleman from Texas, who talked as if he knew the King personally, stated with absolute conviction that Richard’s “crook back” was Tudor propaganda, just before the skeleton was shown conclusively to be King “Dick.”

We now have the remains of an anointed (i.e., chosen by God) king, and we have to find somewhere to put him. The main candidates are Westminster Abbey or St. George’s Chapel at Windsor Castle, where most monarchs have ended up; York Minster, because Richard was the Duke of York; and Leicester Cathedral, on the grounds that since he has been in the city for half a millennium perhaps he should stay.

There is, however, one problem with all these options: All these churches are Church of England, and since Richard III pre-dates the Reformation, he was clearly and unambiguously a Catholic.



Research, But Not Much to Show for It

Two publications caught my eye in the last few days. First, the Association of Town and City Management (ATCM), in conjunction with the British Parking Association (BPA), has weighed into the argument on town center parking and charging. It all seems a bit vague really. Martin Blackwell, ATCM’s CEO argues that parking policy can be a stimulant or a brake on local economic activity, and that “Councils should not leave things to chance,” whatever that means.

Of course, because it’s only a couple of months since a rather more objective and independent document had showed just how irrelevant parking charges were, I am not quite sure where Mr. B was going with this. Meanwhile, in the same report, the BPA says the data show that “there is no conclusive evidence that parking tariffs are influencing decline in town centers and ‘high streets.” A lot of smoke and not much light, I think.

The second report, from Disabled Motoring UK, provided a checklist for good access to carparks for disabled motorists and surveyed a number of carparks to assess how well they met the criteria. I welcome the checklist and the objective of raising the issues as they did, but I wasn’t really sure what they were trying to make pointing out, for example, that in 40-year-old-plus carparks, the headroom was too low for vans with a high roof where wheelchairs are driven in.

The carpark design pre-dates the vehicle technology, and it would be kind of hard to lift the floors a meter-plus to meet the need. What is oh so important is that in any new carpark, this requirement is mandatory, and where the only public facility has this constraint there is an alternative provision on the street outside.

Horror-Shock: Member of the Public Wants Parking Enforced!

A local resident recently wrote to the local paper in St. Helens in Lancashire to demand, now hold your breath, that parking controls be enforced! Our brave correspondent pointed out that a local school had recently campaigned to stop dangerous parking by irresponsible parents, and pointed out that the council is in the red on its car parking account.

He stated that “the rules about parking are made very clear to those who can read”; and soon, “if you flout the rules, you run the risk of a penalty. And if you get caught, you have only yourself to blame!”

From this, he deduced that since the council was losing money on parking and allowing dangerous parking outside schools to go unpunished, that, rather than doing too much parking enforcement, it is doing far too little!

He went further and stated that “if more enforcement officers were employed to regularly target hot spots, especially schools, not only would they make roads safer, but they would be self-financing, even making a profit, which could be used to ease council budget cuts.”

JVH, there is hope for us yet!



Not Sure How We Make This Work

I have written before about the relatively new law here in the UK that allows private land owners to collect a penalty charge off drivers that misuse their car parking, and this story highlights just how difficult it can be to use this power.

Over here, many town center supermarkets want to offer their customers free parking, but at the same time stop local workers from filling up their carparks all day. Two popular ways of doing this are to charge for parking but refund it to customers spending more than, say, $15; or to allow free stay, but for only two hours, which is plenty of time for most supermarket shops.

Unfortunately for Barry Draper of Barnstaple in Devon, when he went to his local Asda (Walmart’s local branding). Having spent more than $150 in the store, he stopped to have a coffee with some friends. The result was a $100 parking fine for staying too long. Everyone at Asda Bideford took the line that “rules is rules” and nothing could be done – that was, until the local paper got the story,

An Asda spokesman had a change of heart and canceled the ticket. “We are happy to review parking charges on a case-by-case basis, where a customer has a genuine reason to be at the store.”

OK for Mr. Draper, but I wonder how many others have been penalized in similar circumstances, and to be honest, a system that penalizes customers for spending too much money isn’t much of a system, is it?

Peter Guest, a consultant in the UK, is PT’s editor at large on all things British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Reach him at peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.



Editor’s Note: Following up on the rehabilitation of Richard III. Among other things, King Richard was accused of the horrific killing of the two young princes in the Tower of London. It turns out that modern archivists, after checking the expense reports of a few of his associates, proved that Richard and his crew were nowhere near London when the evil event took place. The “Bard of Avon” was continuing a character assassination, begun shortly after the king’s death – by, among others, Sir Thomas More – to which Peter refers above. Moral: Be sure to be honest with your expenses – you never know when the reports can come in handy. JVH



 

Article Abstract from March, 2013




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