Monday, March 24, 2008

A Lovely Bank Holiday Afternoon in a Car Park

I never learn. I decided to drive down to the Tunbridge Wells Retail Park this afternoon (pic above) as I needed to get something from Curry's. Two hours later, I'm back. Whoever designed this development ought to be hung from the nearest DFS sign. It took 80 minutes to get out of the car park, which entailed driving all eighty yards. I reckon every single car had the same experience - eighty minutes of inching forward, getting progressively more frustrated by the minute.

But that wasn't the worst of it. In those eighty minutes I witnessed seven examples of unadulterated aggression on the part of drivers who were so wound up they refused to let anyone in ahead of them. These were by no means your typical nineteen year olds in souped up Ford Fiesta XR2s. Two fingers were raised, a single finger gesture was made. A 25 year old oik shrieked at a sixty year old man who hadn't moved for 20 minutes, yet the 25 year old had just got in his car and figured he ought to be let out immediately. I tell you, if these people were a true reflection of Britain today then I despair.

It's the planners their anger should be vented at. How they can have allowed this development to be built in this manner only they can explain. The trouble is with many transport planners is that they very often seem to know bugger all about transport and even less about planning.


Anonymous said...

how the hell did it take you 80mins to get out of there? it's tiny!

you want to try getting out of larger retail parks like Thorne Road in doncaster that's about 3 times the size...

i guess the traffic priorities really must be terrible.

Anonymous said...


Just a word to the wise. Don't go there on a Sunday afternoon either. I learned my lesson sometime back in January.

Anonymous said...

Weird. I was just about to make the Thorne Rd/Doncaster comparison - straight out onto dual carriage way. Bonkers. Something similar happens at the one in Scunthorpe too - Jamie, I'm sure you'll already know! Of course, it doesn't matter how wound up you get on your way out... they've already had your money!

@molesworth_1 said...

Welcome to UK2008 plc.
A broken sorry mess, still mortgaged to the septics, up to its armpits in debt & run by inexperienced goons in ill-fitting suits ("But I got a 2:1 in Marketing!").
Why didn't you just order whatever it was on-line?

Rush-is-Right said...

Whoever designed this development ought to be hung from the nearest DFS sign.

I take it then Iain that you are in favour of capital punishment? Perhaps you should have mentioned to the Tundbridge selectors... you might have got the nod!

Johnny Norfolk said...

Golden rule number one.

Stay at home on Bank Holidays.

Anonymous said...

There is in effect only one way in and out from the main road, then the car park is in two parts, with one way in and out from each. Add the huge numbers of bored bank holiday shoppers and HEY PRESTO!

You have what Ian experienced and I only just avoided as I got there very early.

I did have to contend with the female drover of a black Mini Cooper who exhibited some of the more anti-social qualities mentioned by Ian.


Anonymous said...

And I thought B & Q said their sales were expected to be 30% down this Easter ? Obviously not in Tunbridge Wells.

Anonymous said...

But if you will worship Margaret 'The Great Car Economy' Thatcher, this is what you must expect.

You should have gone to Bath on the train. No parking worries, no traffic worries, and you wouldn't have to be in the company of sh!tty oiks who think retail therapy is 2 hours in a DFS sofa showroom..

Unsworth said...

Yes, the joys of Bank Holiday shopping....

Always seems to bring out the worst in people. The best time to go to such 'commercial developments' is during the Cup Final.

Anonymous said...

"I tell you, if these people were a true reflection of Britain today then I despair."

They are. You should.

Anonymous said...

I was watching 'In Which We Serve' yesterday with an American friend. I had told him that the stiff upper lip of it all typified how English people like to see themselves. 'Is it?' he challenged, and cited lots of examples of the kind of behaviour you describe here, Iain. It is all very depressing, isn't it? I despair myself sometimes at how dreadful so many people are.

Anonymous said...

Iain, why did you got to one of these places on a holiday weekend?
Why did you image that it would anything other than hell on earth?
Go to these retail parks during the week in the evening, never step foot in them at the weekend unless you have too, and never on a holiday.

Anonymous said...

At least this is a million times more interesting than Mings memoirs which is quite sad..........

Anonymous said...

E&Bay is all i will say.

haddock said...

"ought to be hung" ?.......surely
ought to be hanged.
Bank Holiday and people go shopping, that's predictable, spending money they have not got, to buy things they don't need to impress people who don't give a toss, imported goods no doubt.
I'm old enough to remember when Retail Park Units were called shops, anyone who goes to one deserves all the hassle they get.

Anonymous said...


I do not have a car, have not driven for 20 years and have never been in a 'retail park' and yes I am under 50 years old with two small children.

I get Sainsbury's to deliver my food which I order by internet - it is possible to live without a car and a lot more people should give it a try. It just requires a little bit of thought.

I once had a converstation with a woman who worked for my local bus company. She was amazed that I had no car and just used the bus - indeed she told me she could not possibly do without her car as she liked to go in person to do her supermarket shopping. I asked why she could not use the internet and her reply (I kid you not) was:

" I like to go and see my cabbages before I buy them".

Anonymous said...

"hung from the nearest DFS sign."

Surely a worse punishment would be to be forced to go inside DFS? They'd be screaming to be hanged after that.

dizzy said...

"A Lovely Bank Holiday Afternoon in a Car Park" - When I read the title in an RSS reader al I could think of was a contemporary verb that has links with canine and I just shuddered and then clicked anyway

Anonymous said...

Tax the out of town car parks with pay as you park, as Dave Cameron suggested and then ran scared. That will sort it out.

Anonymous said...

If you're going to be pilloried as a car driving destroyer of the planet, go the whole hog and buy a great big sod off 4x4.

They give you so much more scope for cutting across pavements and verges when traffic jams like this occur.

Climate change brought on by cars polluting the atmosphere is just another socialist excuse for taxing those who they believe can afford it.

Iain Dale said...

Er, I have.

JuliaM said...

"I asked why she could not use the internet and her reply (I kid you not) was:

" I like to go and see my cabbages before I buy them"."

Sensible lady. While internet food shopping is ok for canned goods, ready meals and others, fresh fruit, vegetables, fish and meat is far better chosen in person.

Anonymous said...

in reply to r rover v8, i once did have to go over a kerb to get out of a Morrisons car park, because the barrier to let you out had stuck and wasn't rising. a dozen or so people both in front of and behind me had to do the same.

pity i drove a Citroen Saxo at the time.

Anonymous said...

I have lived in London, Essex, Kent, Sussex and Surrey and have driven in most other counties. I have found that, for some reason, Kent has more than its share of selfish bloody-minded individuals (of all ages).

This applies not just to motorists but to shop assistants and also petty officials (local authority staff, car park attendants, box office staff, etc.) who seem to delight in making life difficult for other people.

Oddly enough, I have found that Essex people are among the most helpful.

Anonymous said...

Out of town retail parks are one of the abiding environmental "achievements" of the Thatcher government, Iain. Nick Ridley's finest hour and all that.

Iain Dale said...

I have nothing against retail parks. But this one was designed by a zombie.

Anonymous said...

Sounds very much like the Riverside Retail Park in Warrington.

It just strengthens my resolve to ignore whatever "experts" tell me (or especially whatever politicians tell me that experts tell me)

Remember the "Blow up a tower block for charity" phase? The erections (can I say "erections"?) being disposed of were designed, located and built by "experts" Remember the Millenium Bug and all the experts who advised us as to what needed (expensively) doing.

The list could go on and on, but then I'd merely confirm myself to be the Grumpy Old Man I am

Alan Douglas said...

I think you are far to kind to the traffic planners - their object in life is to wean us off our cars by aversion "therapy" - ie making it so damn hard to move that we simply give up.

It is DELIBERATE, not incompetance.

Alan Douglas

The Creator said...

Welcome to Gordo's Britain.

Move to France.

CherryPie said...

Heck that looks quite small compared to my local retail park! I won't go shopping at mine at the weekends it is a nightmare to get out, firstly from the car park and then it feeds onto an exit from the motorway!!!

Anonymous said...

Having spent twenty five years as an Operations manager for one of those outlets, you have my complete sympathy - we designed the bloody place too!

I've had my own Easter Monday problems to worry about.

I've had a I've had a spot of bother today, kids, coppers, cameras, cctv, and a big waste of police time!

Is it a problem of attitude? I.E. now vs 1970's?

I'd be interested in some views.

Anonymous said...

Johnny Norfolk

You got that wrong.

Rule 1, 2, and 3, stay at home on Bank Holidays.

Rule 4, 5, and 6, stay at home the rest of the time, if at all possible.

Rule 7 Save your money like your life depended on it. Then retire young and live a simple life in any other country then this one, as long as its cheap.

Rule 8 become an MP. This is as we know the only way to have absolutely no problems at all. Especially if it is a safe seat. But even getting elected once is now a meal ticket for life.

Rule 9 become any other type of deluded public service worker, that therefore believes that good times never end and no one but so called rich people ever end up paying for it. Just because the BBC and Gordon Brown told you so a hundred times a day. ( this rule of course does not help in any material way, but at least ignorance is bliss for a while. )

It may be depressing advice, but it is still the best advice anyone will ever give you, for free or not.

tory boys never grow up said...

Could you have walked instead? Might have been better for you in so many ways.

Anonymous said...

I'm sure a man of your calibre could afford a bicycle. Or a scooter if you can't be @rsed to pedal.

You know it makes sense.

Newmania said...

Oh dear I went there myself recently Iain thinking I would gorge on the freedoms of living outside London.By the time the family were back home I was chewing my own foot off.

What about the Brown`s Vote rigging scam on the front page of the Guardian ? Help help...tell,me what to think

Newmania said...

Sorry to barge in but isn`t this just a teeny bit important ,16% behind and they want to change the rules ?

"Labour advocates of reform argue it will be easier to institute it this side of an election since any change after a election in which Labour lost seats, but stayed in power, possibly in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, would be seen as an effort to stop the Tories."

WTF !!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Welcome to the Dark Side, Iain!

Ralph Hancock said...

I'm sitting in a car park in Tunbridge Wells.

My patience dwindles and my anger swells
With the petrol and diesel and hamburger smells,
The spotty children fighting with atrocious yells,
As I sit in a car park in Tunbridge Wells.

I've been heavily bombarded with six-inch shells,
I've been gang-raped by pirates in the far Seychelles,
But here is an experience that both of these excels:
Being stuck in a car park in Tunbridge Wells.

Now I'm dead, and buried with canticles and bells,
And I'm looking at the Devil, and this is what he tells:
'The times are very wicked and we've run out of cells,
So I'm sending you to one of our New Open Hells.'

I'm sitting in a car park in Tunbridge Wells.

Anonymous said...

Mr Newmania raises an important point.

The vainglorious Mr Portaloo pointed out in the Times that whilst Dave could stuff Gordon by saying goodbye to the Jocks, Gordon could get his retaliation in first by introducing PR.

This is democracy, Jim, but not as we know it. Only Alex Salmond can save us now.

Anonymous said...

"I like to see my cabbages before I buy them".
Quite right too. Who doesn't pick and choose in the supermarket? You have to accept whatever they send via the internet.

Anonymous said...

Your sounding like Victor Meldrew!!!
Ian, "I dont believe it" lol
Northants British National Party

Anonymous said...


Once again proves that he / she / it is as funny as a fire in an orphanage.

Stick to the day job, perhaps?

Jeremy Jacobs said...

I think you'll find that there's similar problem at Westwood Cross between Margate & Ramsgate. TW isn't the only Kent town with road planning problems.

I agree with Captain Haddock and others. Stay at home, go to Florida, Eilat or the Pyrenees or even go climbing in the hills on a Bank Holiday.

Owain Cwmtwrch said...

19 year olds in souped up XR2's? No way, the XR2 fiesta is a classic collectors model now :)

Anonymous said...

@ Anonymous 8.30pm

"Kent has more than its share of selfish bloody-minded individuals (of all ages)."

I found that as well. Most of them seem to live in Bexley.

Anonymous said...

Just put a bike rack on the back of your car, the ones that fit on a towbar are best.

So when you know you are going near a congested or overpriced parking spot, you can park up (usually free) and cycle the last mile or so. Works a treat.

Even better do the whole journey on the bike, it is a great feeling flying past all those cars stuck in a jam.

You will be surprised at how heavy and bulky a load will fit in a pair of good panniers.

Anonymous said...

Easter Bank Holiday weeekend - the busiest weekend of the year for DYI and garden centers esp. one where the weather is too cold to go away. AND YOU WENT TO ONE.

Ha ha!.

What a fool.

And to be fair you made the situation worse for the people who work 9-5 and have no choice but to visit these visions of Hell on weekends.

Anonymous said...

No, the planners *deliberately* make it difficult to use a car by limiting car parking, limiting entrances and exits to car parking, etc, in order to "encourage" you to use public transport. All hail the socialist revolution!

Anonymous said...

Heronymoustosh said: "...DYI..."

whats "DYI"?

Do Yourself an Injury?

Anonymous said...

It is easy to spot the Labour voters...

Anonymous said...

My experience of shopping in Kent was wholly positive. I went to Faversham's market. It was not necessary to go there by car and everyone was friendly and polite. You can get more or less anything you need in the market and the shops.

And I am not a Faversham shop keeper!

Anonymous said...

Iain, it's nothing to do with the fact it was a bank holiday, the problem is simple. All road management decisions in Tunbridge wells are made by "plural of 4 letter word I cannot use here which begins with C". Every single change I see on the roads in TW over the last ten years have made things worse, not one thing have I seen to actually improve traffic flow. The council here, although conservative, seem to be militantly anti-car.

Out of town industrial estates are supposed to be easy to get to, easy to park, easy to shop. In my experience the longfield road industrial estate is always chock full of traffic, doesn't matter when you go. The problem is too many roundabouts, and too many traffic lights, all too close to each other, and the same problem occurs all the way through the town.

Something interesting I've noticed - on the few occasions the power is out and all the traffic lights are down, traffic flows with an ease which is astonishing.

Sen. C.R.O'Blene said...


TWBC were always last people on earth to see how the whole area round there was to be developed successfully.

I can remember when the road actually stopped at 'Big Yellow', and everyone had to go back out the same way; through the houses to Pembury Rd!

That site used to be the old Seeboard HQ, and every attempt to redevelop it - even when it was a derelict eyesore - was sat on by the bumbling planning burgers of Old TW. They never could see that it was a valuable opportunity, and made sure that every development there was done as an individual unit - hence the lack of roads to get in and out.

This is the same council which allowed the hospital to be rebuilt on the old site - not a nice new one with good and swift access off the A21!

They've really messed up the whole area because they can.

bryboy said...

Iain I am amazed that you have found this normal everyday occurrence so devastating. Outside of the political bubble this is how we have to live in Brown's Britain today. The traffic planners glory in making our modern roads a nightmare. Traffic lights, road humps, mini roundabouts are all designed to destroy the traffic flow. Most of us know when it is safe to use a supermarket and it is not on a Bank Holiday afternoon.

Anonymous said...

Everybody. It's called Urban Safety Management (google it) and was adopted as best pratice in 1997 under Gavin Strang.

The idea is to block up road junctions and narrow the avaiable space so that after the experience you've just had, you won''t go back.

It was applied in London after the C-Charge, which is why things are worse than before the c-charge started.

Trouble is, it originated in the US (which doesn't have as many diesel vehicles - indeed they are banned in eight states) and the combination of engineered traffic jams and diesel engines is fantasically bad for air quality.

Which is why London is well in breach of EU air quality regs and the fines should start rolling in soon.

A Motoring Hack

Anonymous said...

Motoring Hack 8:23 PM
"Everybody. It's called Urban Safety Management (google it) and was adopted as best pratice in 1997 under Gavin Strang...It was applied in London after the C-Charge, which is why things are worse than before the c-charge started."

It was implemented in London well before 1997; under the Thatcher government in fact.

"Trouble is, it originated in the US (which doesn't have as many diesel vehicles - indeed they are banned in eight states)"

Only a few specific diesels, which are not approved because they do not comply with the emission standards, have been banned in some US states.

"It was applied in London after the C-Charge, which is why things are worse than before the c-charge started."

Traffic flows have generally improved since the introduction of the C-charge. The traffic calming measures have not increased average journey times but have made the roads safer.

Anonymous said...

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

I can't see how it was adopted under Thatcher (she left 17 years ago). Road markings, closed junctions, more lights and road narrowing has all exploded since Strang adopted it in 1997.

How could he decide to adopt it as best practice if it was already in use? I have the report quoting him in front of me.

The eight state rule is so severe that Mercedes has just launched the BlueTec diesel with urea-injection to get over the regs (Tier 2 Bin 5, as I'm sure you know).

The other states have very strict rules which virtually killed off Mercedes diesel sales in the late 1980s.

London air quality is well in breach of EU regulations - entirely because of the stop-start strategy of urban safety management. Applying stop-start when the majority of vehicles are diesel is no more than deliberate poisoning.

At least one major union of scientists in the US have been pressing against the use of diesel road vehicles because of particulate emissions and smog-creating NOX. So there has been a strong push against diesel in general, which has worked in the US.

Did you know that Camden council has laid titanium dioxide coated paving stones to try and break dwon the smog-causing NOX in the summer?

Traffic flows have not improved since the C-Charge. I drove across London SW11 to N1 for seven a half years and the traffic is now slightly slower than in the late 1990s - even the DFT figures agree with this - with fewer vehicles on the road.

Reducing road space - Blackfriars is down to one lane north-bound and Albert Bridge likewise - and cutting off junctions has made traversing London much harder. Ask a cabbie.

I suppose you've heard of Shared Space? Boris will roll it out once he wins. Calmer traffic and a far more pleasant environment.

Ever been to continental Europe? Potzdammer Platz? Are you lefties blind?

Do the insides of your council flats look like a collision between a paint shop and metal barrier factory?

Anonymous said...

As much as anything it is greed from local authorities for increased rateable value and theerefore income which blinds them to proper consideration of the practicalities of such developments.

Anonymous said...

Motoring Hack (8.23 pm and 2.20 am), I sincerely hope you are not a motoring journalist because you are woefully ignorant of highway engineering matters.

"Are you lefties blind?"

I am a Conservative-voting highway engineering consultant.

"Everybody. It's called Urban Safety Management (google it) and was adopted as best pratice in 1997 under Gavin Strang...It was applied in London after the C-Charge, which is why things are worse than before the c-charge started."

You misunderstand the nature of the document that was issued by the Highways Agency under Gavin Strang in 1997. It did not lay out a new policy but described measures which were already in widespread use and which had been successful. It simply defined those measures which had been most effective in reducing accidents and required that they should be used more extensively.

"I can't see how it was adopted under Thatcher (she left 17 years ago). Road markings, closed junctions, more lights and road narrowing has all exploded since Strang adopted it in 1997."

I was involved in implementing all the measures you you mention in London during the 1980s. The dramatic increase in their use therefter was due to their proven success in making the road network safer.

One measure which you do not mention is the speed hump (unpopular but very effective). In the 1980s the regulations concerning these were so restrictive that we were able to install very few of them. In the early 1990s the regulations changed and the numbers greatly increased.

Anonymous said...

Mr Conservative Speed Hump person.

Pollution. And extra CO2.

Spot pollution levels massively up on a speed-humped street. And fuel consumption up by 50 percent on the same stretch, according to the AA. (And I did talk to the engineer who worked on the tests).

The only conservatism I can extract from our exchange is you hanging on to a now discredited technique which is being abandoned across Europe.

GM's Swedish head of future powertrain design told me that four-way stop junctions with traffic lights are being removed across the EU and replaced by roundabouts.

You and your mates are installing traffic lights on roundabouts, to the detrimnent of air quality and fuel consumption.

How many people die each year from pavement side pollution in London? 1000 or so?

Anonymous said...

I only go there to pick up the odd piece of post from the Royal Mail depot, even that less busy end is in constant jams all week long, at any time of day. I dread to think what its like on weekends!

Anonymous said...

Is a car park that lovely. I do not think so. :