Notes from West London

No free parking in Zones 1, 2 or 3

Anyone who has spent time here in London will know that the city’s public transport system is divided into Zones. Zone 1 is central London, covering the area bounded by the Circle Line and a little bit beyond. Or rather the Circle Line as it was until the beginning of this century, when, as its name suggests, it was a loop with no clear beginning or end. Now it looks like an upper case Q, rotated 180 degrees so that the tail heads west and south, joining up with the Hammersmith & City Line and ending up at Hammersmith station, which is in the middle of Zone 2.

Zone 2 extends outwards approximately 3 or 4 miles from Zone 1. Its boundaries include Turnham Green, North Acton, Willesden Junction, Hampstead, Manor House and Clapham South. All of these stations are where Zone 2 meets Zone 3, which then extends to places like Kew Gardens, Northfields, Hendon Central, Bounds Green, Leytonstone and South Wimbledon.

I do not recall a time when there was free parking anywhere in Zone 1 from Monday to Friday. As I noted in this piece in 2018 there used to be plenty of places in Central London where you could park for free after 1.30pm on a Saturday but they have all gone: before 6.30pm you have to pay to park, even on the quiet streets I used to know well.

I do remember, very clearly, that you could park for free in many places in Zone 2 well into the 1990s: streets around Fulham Palace Road, King Street Hammersmith and Shepherds Bush Road were all free of restrictions. By the late 1990s that had all changed. We noticed the change very clearly just after Easter in 1996. We lived further out in Zone 2 (where parking was always free) and on the morning of Easter Tuesday (the day after the Bank Holiday) our normally quiet streets were inundated with commuters looking for somewhere to leave their cars all day. The streets off King Street, within walking distance of Ravenscourt Park station, now had resident parking schemes.

For months there were daily angry exchanges between these newly-arrived commuters and local residents, especially parents who would return from the school run to find they couldn’t park anywhere in their own street. We were within a 10-minute walk of Stamford Brook station, so the hundreds of people who had previously parked for free near Ravenscourt Park were clearly happy to make the switch to the next station heading west, with a mere 2 minutes added on to their daily commute.

The inevitable conclusion to all this was the introduction of resident parking schemes throughout our corner of West London. Something that had previously been free now cost at least £60 a year. If a friend drove over to visit you any day except Sunday, you had to plan exactly how and where they could park. Visitor permits allowed up to 5 hours per visit. They were pre-printed bits of card, and for each hour (or part-hour) you had to write the visitor’s registration number, date and start time. If they were staying for 5 hours, you had to write out all 5 lines. If it looked like you had modified any part of the information (maybe tracing over the start time again to make it look clearer) you could expect a parking ticket. Better to cross out a whole line and write the next one clearly than to risk being accused of tampering with the permit. We did enjoy the catchphrase that developed when friends extended their stay, from say 3 to 4 hours. “Shall we do another line, and you can stay an extra hour?” If you were hanging out with Keith Richards in the 1970s “doing another line” would mean something completely different. We only used it to refer to visitor parking. These days we live nearer to Turnham Green station, in Zone 3, and the restrictions are only slightly different (Monday to Friday, 9am to 6pm).

Why am I telling you all this? Well, it’s a small but (for those of us that have lived it and have had 23 years’ worth of extra expense and paperwork) significant bit of local history. But I’m telling you now because we are spending parts of our weekdays trying to find space for a borrowed car. Our Peugeot 307 has an unbroken 13-year history of residents’ parking associated with it. Unfortunately, it is still at a garage, awaiting a part, something that I mentioned in this piece on 25 June (over three weeks ago). Tomorrow will mark its 35th day in the service department attached to the dealership we bought it from. 35 days. According to the chap I spoke to last week, not one of their 40+ parts suppliers in the UK has the required part, a coil. “The system” showed that there was one in Coventry, but when they went to look for it, it wasn’t there. And there are none in France either, apparently.

In the meantime we still have a borrowed Citroen C3, no previous owners, and the “new car smell” is much less noticeable than it was a few weeks ago. I did look into transferring my residents permit to the loan car temporarily, but the local council website tells me it would take at least 10 working days and cost an extra £8 per week. I foolishly thought that our car would be back with us within 10 working days.

Although our own street is restricted between 9am and 6pm Monday to Friday, the one that runs parallel to ours only has restrictions for two hours per day (9am-10am and 3pm-4pm) so we have been leaving the car there for much of the working day. Until last Friday, my wife would drive my daughter to school and collect her, more often than usual, so that covered most of the time that the neighbouring street was restricted. Now the school holidays are upon us and we can’t simply leave the car outside our door for a whole working day: there’s no free parking anywhere in Zones 1, 2 or 3.

And if you know anyone who can source a coil for a 13-year-old Peugeot 307, please let me know.


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