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Coalition to ‘End War on Motorist’ (Again)

5 January 2011 No Comment

So the Government are finally ending  the ‘war on the motorist’. You will be forgiven a certain amount of scepticism upon hearing this claim yet again.

Indeed it was only in May this year that the phrase was most recently dragged out. The coalition recognise that this sort of language scores easy points with the Daily Mail brigade.

And yet to suggest a war on motorists is a bit like suggesting a war on drugs i.e. the persecution of a disparate and evasive grouping. As elusive by turns as the Taliban.

And yet there has been a coordinated action on the part of successive Labour governments to discourage motoring. Laws which prevent developers from providing unlimited parking spaces with new buildings, for example. And laws which allowed central government to dictate ever-more repressive car parking charges, and oblige local councils to abide by them.

These seemingly minute encouragements to the environmental lobby are encouragements nevertheless. With the number of cars on the road having fallen in 2010 for the first time since the war, there is evidence perhaps that motoring in the UK is on the decline.

But with the Tories now reversing both of these procedures, in a fillip to property developers and localism respectively, the industry may receive a small but real motivation.

It’s hard to argue with a measure which seems to encourage the regeneration of town centres, as opposed to out of town shopping centres. Many of our town centres are dismal places. And to see the effect of out of town shopping centres like Merry Hill on the towns of the Black Country is to witness the utter strangulation of a community.

But this is not now going to be reversed. The horse has well and truly bolted.

And if the aim of the property-development-parking-space law is designed to stimulate the property market as well as the car market?  One need only walk east along the Thames and see quite how many uninhabited flats there are to see how much we need more new private housing building.

This then is gesture politics. Indeed the only measure which would convince all motorists that they are no longer at war would be if the coalition were to cut fuel duty. And that’s never going to happen.