Gazette letters: Highbury Station building and changes to visitors’ parking

Highbury station at Highbury Corner in 1923. Picture: ISLINGTON LOCAL HISTORY CENTRE

Highbury station at Highbury Corner in 1923. Picture: ISLINGTON LOCAL HISTORY CENTRE - Credit: Archant

In your history column of August 30, 2018, there is great praise for the inception and construction of the London Underground’s Victoria line, writes Barry J Page, Goderich, Ontario, Canada (former Islingtonian).

There was one significant injustice where the Highbury & Islington station is concerned.

It was considered that the increased vibrations caused by the Tube trains would eventually lead to the collapse of the former 1872 North London Railway building at Highbury Corner.

Despite the fact this building had survived nearly 100 years and been damaged by two Second World War bombing incidents – including the V1 explosion of June 27, 1944 – it remained almost intact and was a significant transportation focal point in the borough.

Unfortunately, the misguided decision was made to demolish this venerable building. How we wish it was still there – even restored to its former glory – instead of the sad structure that’s there in its place.

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The council is changing a good system that uses paper vouchers for visitor parking in favour of an e-voucher scheme, with the admin outsourced to RingGo, writes C Mackenzie, Alwyne Villas, Canonbury.

One of the stated reasons is to make paying for vouchers easier for users and quicker. But my experience is that the staff in the Upper Street offices are extremely efficient, and paper vouchers ordered online arrive pretty much the next day.

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I am not a car user and welcome any initiatives by the council to cut down on cars. But there are some people who need their cars. These are mainly those who have, for example, mobility issues (the elderly, or people with young children) and tradespeople who need to go around with their tools.

In many streets there are no metered paying spaces, only residents’ parking: visitors (trade or social) have up to now used paper vouchers.

To get the electronic vouchers, the householder has to create an online account (linked to a debit/credit card) with RingGo. Then every time a visitor voucher is needed the householder has to log in to the account and pay via phone app, computer or whatever, registering the prospective visitor’s car registration number, plus time of arrival and departure.

Obviously the account-holders themselves have to do the log-in, registration and payment – each and every time. We’ll no longer be able to leave out vouchers for our visitors if we work. We’ll have either to be at home when they come or be got hold of at work to do all the fiddling on the nearest computer.

It’s some help that one can buy the vouchers two days ahead, but it’s not my experience that one can predict with any accuracy when people will arrive or how long they’ll stay.

If I wait for a washing-machine repairer, the firm won’t be able to say in advance who’s coming in what van, when they’ll arrive and how long they’ll need to stay. So much hassle when there is a simple alternative.

Worse, the website says that “you” – i.e. the account holder – will be liable for your visitor’s parking offences or overstays. So I pretty well have to be at home when they arrive, and for the duration of their stay, to make sure they park correctly and don’t overstay – unless I’m happy to pay their parking fines.

The website says there are to be arrangements for “exceptional cases”, i.e. people who have neither a smartphone nor a computer/laptop.

This is what the council website says: “Will people without access to the internet be able to access e-vouchers? Yes. If residents don’t have online access, we have support available to help them to set up an account. Residents are advised to call 020 7527 1338 or drop into the Islington Customer Centre or their local library. Scratch-off paper vouchers are still available in exceptional circumstances for residents that are unable to access services online.”

Take someone with dementia who needs carers twice a day: will they be able, each time a carer arrives by car, to dash to the nearest friend or library to register, log in and arrange payment? Carers do a marvellous job on little money, and they can do without parking fines when they visit people. Under this scheme they will be spending time sorting out parking tickets when they have better things to do. And, for those who do manage to claim “exceptional circumstances” paper vouchers, it’s not clear how the enforcement car will be able to verify “exceptional case entitlement”; the incentive will be to hand out a ticket.

There is a whole data protection issue around this, too.

The website says: “Will you [the council] be able to check details of visitors using e-vouchers? Vehicle registration details will only be used to check the vehicle has a valid e-voucher attached to it. We are unable and have no legal right to see any other detail.” Part of the rationale for this new scheme is to prevent abuse of parking arrangements on match days, so presumably the council (or RingGo) will be analysing which visitors come too often on match days. This appears inconsistent with the assurances on captured data on visitors.

The council must re-consider the abolishment of the paper visitor voucher. For many people, especially people with busy lives, people who aren’t able to use computers, and tradespeople who need their tools close to hand, the paper vouchers can’t be bettered.

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