Thursday, 7 October 2010

Car Parking

The parking situation in the city is desperate!

The root of the problem is that we have not yet, as a society, come to terms with the fact that cars exist and that a very large proportion of households have one or more. We need roads to drive them on and we need places to park them, when we are at home, when we are at work, and when we are at play. It is no use burying our collective heads in the sand, and hoping that they will somehow disappear. Once we recognise that cars must be provided for, then a number of things become clear:
  • The council could prevent the situation from getting any worse by requiring all new development to provide two off-road parking spaces for each household. OK - some households might only want one car, so they can put pot plants on the other space until they change their minds or sell the property on. There are a number of flats in the city that were, I understand, deliberately built with no parking in the misplaced hope that they would be bought by people without a car. How crazy is that? 
  • The model used at The Brooks and Waitrose/Friarsgate could be extended to all future developments: i.e. put parking underneath buildings. 
  • Surface car parks could (after having another layer added underneath them) be dedicated to nearby housing that is without spaces - the Chesil Street surface park, for example, could serve Chesil Street itself and Wharf Hill. It could be landscaped with shrubs and made to look quite pleasant. I've seen this model is in many French towns, and it seems to work well.
There would still be a huge number of streets lined with cars - a legacy of earlier planning mistakes. Getting rid of them would require something more radical: but we should at least stop things getting any worse.

Wednesday, 17 February 2010

The Green Dilemma

Green programmes tend to focus on reducing the amount of carbon that we dig up out of the ground in the form of fossil fuels for burning. But if we continue to dig it up at all, then it will inevitably all end up in the atmosphere as CO2 (any forests around absorbing it only temporarily). So, whatever programme we adopt, we are still going to reach a point when the greenhouse gas levels become so high that they cause catastrophic global warming. The only way that I can see of avoiding this particular Armageddon is wholly to convert to renewable/nuclear sources, and to use some of the energy thereby obtained to transform a percentage of the carbon that's already out there back into plastics, pharmaceuticals, etc.

But that's in the future, and the planet must wait for public opinion to catch on. Meanwhile, we need to be as green as we can, in order to buy a little more time.

Friday, 5 February 2010

To vote or not to vote - that is the question?

Quite a lot of Winchester residents visit the Winchester City Council website, and a number are sufficiently interested in making their views known to take the trouble to click on the poll about voting intentions. But the current state of the poll (evening of Friday 5 February) is that an astonishing 64% have already decided not to vote in the forthcoming elections! We would all do well to remember Edmund Burke's famous aphorism:

"All that is necessary for evil to triumph is for good men to do nothing."

We surely ought to vote?

Sunday, 3 January 2010

Going Green

In my view, the only important issue the planet faces is that of population: all the others - climate change, shortage of landfill sites, pollution, nuclear proliferation, etc - are, comparatively speaking, sideshows. Of course, pessimists have opined through the ages that Armageddon is upon us in terms of population and yet, in the event, we have always adapted. But in the past the changes have been gradual: what makes this crisis different is that a step change is involved. The world's resources are currently consumed by a tenth of its population. The other nine tenths have now begun to stir, and they aim to enjoy similar consumption over a time scale of just a few decades.

Ideally, therefore, we would have a world population one tenth of its present size. My calculations indicate that, if the world were to adopt the Chinese model of one child per family, it would take some 400 years to achieve this goal. That probably isn't going to happen, so you might prefer to adopt the greenest possible policies in order to buy more time - just in case the world does eventually decide to make a serious assault on the population problem.

In this spirit, I have signed up to 10:10 myself, and I am delighted that the City Council (approving a motion brought and seconded by the Liberal Democrats) has decided to do the same. Of course, in signing up for it, one faces the problem that it is much harder to achieve a 10% reduction in one's CO2 footprint if one has already instituted many of the obvious measures like insulation, energy-saving bulbs, and so on; and it isn't immediately apparent how to establish a base-line so as to be able to judge how one is getting on. I'm hoping that the 10:10 site will give help on this during the course of the coming year.