Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence


Memorandum submitted by Technical Advisors Group for House of Commons Transport Committee

INTRODUCTION/BACKGROUND

  We would like to thank the House of Commons Transport Committee for the opportunity of giving evidence on this very important subject.

  The Technical Advisors Group known as TAG is a professional body representing 400 Chief Technical Officers of Local Authorities in Districts, London Boroughs, Metropolitan Authorities and Unitary Councils in England, Wales and Northern Ireland. The active members are normally chief technical officers and second and third tier officers in technical departments. Our responsibilities include highways, traffic, transportation and parking and often town planning. They also often include buildings (on behalf of other front line service departments), building design/architecture, building control, cleansing, waste collection and disposal, leisure, property assets, land drainage, coastal protection and environmental services.

  Many of our members will have contributed to other submissions to the Committee from individual local authorities and from Local Government Associations.

  In the press notice we note that there are eight bullet points the Committee wishes to particularly examine. The seventh is "What role should parking policy play in traffic management and demand management" and the eighth is "How can public understanding and acceptance of the need for parking policy be achieved." These we consider are the key to all the other issues and would wish to deal with them first in our response.

TAG RESPONSE

1.  What role should parking policy play in traffic management and demand management?

  It has long been recognised that parking policy and management is an exceptionally powerful tool in planning a town's structure and its traffic and transportation. It is notable that the original "Bible" on planning and transport for towns—Traffic in Towns, better known as the Buchanan Report published in 1963, states:

    "We think it will be necessary for transportation plans to be based on a conscious decision regarding the extent to which demand for optional use of cars can be met. The plans should contain measures to influence demand so that it matches the provision that can be made . . . there appear to be four possibilities:

(i)  A system of permits or licences . . .

(ii)  A system of pricing the use of road space . . .

(iii)  Parking Policy.

(iv)  Subsidising public transport so that it offers considerable financial advantages over the use of cars." (Traffic in towns para 451)

    "Of these four methods . . . everything points to the immediate importance of parking policy. It appears absolutely essential that the public authority should retain complete control of:

(i)  the amount of parking space that is provided,

(ii)  its location, and

(iii)  the charges that are levied, . . . " (Traffic in towns para 452)

  It is also stated elsewhere:

    ". . . We think people may have to be told very firmly where, and when, and how they can use their vehicles, but we feel sure they will demand the right of ownership . . . " (Traffic in towns Para 370).

  The only element of the four included in Buchanan's suggested strategy that has been employed in any reasonably consistent manner is Parking Policy. However even in this there have been significant gaps and failures in the implementation over the years. An example of a continuing gap is the application of effective management of "Workplace", and indeed out of town shopping, car parks. It is interesting to note that on Workplace parking, Buchanan commented as follows:

    "The question of how much parking space should be provided in new buildings needs to be considered from two points of view, namely, liability and convenience of access and circulation."

    ". . . the application of arbitrary parking standards to new buildings may produce an accumulation of parking space which the network cannot deal with . . ."

    "To summarise we think the parking policies need re-examination to ensure that traffic difficulties are not being `built in' by the provision of too much parking space in the wrong position, and that owners and developers are not being burdened with liabilities which are not really for them to carry." (Paragraphs 454, 455 and 456 of the Buchanan Report)

  Apart from town and transport planning reasons to manage and control all types of parking, climate change is now one of the most important issues facing all of us; control of parking to reduce traffic levels is an important aspect in reducing CO2 emissions.

  Parking policy is obviously key both in how a town is being developed and in ensuring that a town can function properly and this must affect all parking, including on street, publicly available off street and shopping car parks, car parks attached to places of work, and both on and off street residential parking. For Local Authorities to manage these issues effectively, they need reasonable control of all types of parking. Furthermore despite Buchanan's comments about people having a right to own cars some authorities and indeed advice from the ODPM are now seriously rationing residential parking in towns not to build up too many problems from resident's parking.

  On street parking was first controlled in the UK by use of meters in the Mayfair area of London from 1958. Residential parking zones, to give inner city residents some possibilities for owning cars, were introduced from 1968 in Belgravia and Knightsbridge. The parking controls which followed in the '60s for meters and early '70s for residents and meters, in London and elsewhere, were generally well accepted. Often residents, businesses and transport organisations strongly supported them for their very real benefits—in rationing the limited available kerbside space, in removing bottle-necks from badly parked cars and in managing the total volume of traffic on the network.

  Unfortunately in the early and mid '70s the police, who had responsibility for enforcing the parking regulations, failed to carry out proper enforcement to maintain the effectiveness of the controls. Parking management decayed into a state of anarchy.

  By 1976 there were one third of a million illegal parking acts per day in the core central area of London. Each parking act was effectively a trip end, so apart from roads being blocked and essential servicing being made very difficult, there were many more vehicle trips on the road than "intended". It is notable that within this core area only about half a million "parking tickets" were issued per year, many of which escaped eventual payment. From the non-law abiding point of view, by far the cheapest place to park was on a yellow line, or perhaps even a pedestrian zigzag marking. For one hour's parking in the mid 70s the cost for a determined law avoider was typically half a penny per hour. At that time the cost for parking legally at a meter were 30p per hour. The risks from illegal parking on a meter or residents parking space were also considerably cheaper than this legal parking charge.

  Pressure from Local Authorities to the Ministry of Transport and the Home Office resulted in a chain of events from the Wheel Clamp Experiment in the mid 1980s to the 1991 Road Traffic Act. It is interesting to note that this Local Authority campaign was led initially by such unlikely comrades as Dave Wetzel from the GLC and Dame Shirley Porter from Westminster who made a united approach to try and resolve this very serious problem. During the process it became clear that in many other areas of the country the police were not being effective in enforcing parking regulations and the 1991 Act did allow for extension of decriminalised parking control to be introduced nationwide.

  From this we put to the Committee the fundamental importance of parking control (very desirably for all types of parking) and its effective enforcement for the basic functioning of our towns and cities in the UK and to help the future of the planet (global warming).

2.  How can public understanding and acceptance for the need for Parking Policy be achieved?

  While TAG and officers in our various departments and indeed whole councils generally understand the need for parking control and management, there are large sections of the public that do not understand the issues described above. Furthermore most of us behave in our own personal interests rather than thinking of wider interests. This is particularly true if we feel we can get away without any personal penalty. This applies to speeding, illegal parking, or for even less law abiding people, graffiti, vandalism, burglary etc.

  Changing culture to accept the importance of parking management and control is now a hard uphill task. It can only be achieved by using every available means to change culture, provide real sticks and carrots to encourage the right parking behaviour, and make sure the approach is fully joined up including linking to other types of parking space as described above. Historically we have had considerable success on issues like drink driving or smoking over the last 30 years. Control of speeding is another issue that is generally well accepted however, as with parking control, there has been too much willingness to surrender to law breakers who do not think of the wider implications of their behaviour.

  TAG and Local Authorities must accept a considerable share of the responsibility of failure to explain the reasons for parking control. We believe that moving forward, from the position we are presently in, we need to ensure that all people in authority accept the importance of parking control and provide the necessary leadership and example. This must include the police (even if they are not actually charged with enforcement of parking control) and indeed Government Ministers and Members of Parliament. We should make every effort to work with the press whenever possible to make them aware and explain the issues. A key area where making the public aware of the issues is when drivers first start to drive. More weight could be given to teaching young drivers of the importance of parking control and providing better and fuller advice within the Highway Code.

  It is noticeable that vehicles are stationary for 95% of the time and only moving for 5%. Far more attention, relative to the importance given to moving vehicles, needs to be given to stationary vehicles—a vehicle is, of course, only useful to its owner or driver when it has reached its destination and is parked.

3.  Are Local Authorities carrying out parking control reasonably, fairly and accountably? How is performance evaluated?

  We are firmly of the opinion that, in the main, Local Authorities are carrying out parking control reasonably, fairly and accountably. There may be areas where some parking attendants are inadequately trained, just as any other group of workers, including the police. If anything there is more evidence that the enforcement is not being carried out strictly enough rather than vice-versa. Evidence even from Local Authorities with well managed and funded parking operations show that, where compliance surveys have been carried out, only about one in 10 of offenders receive a parking ticket, this may be better than for speeding motorists but it gives everybody a chance to escape on too many occasions.

  Different authorities use different performance measures and many of these will no doubt be described to the Committee. The single most obvious performance measure is compliance with the regulations.

4.  What action would raise the standard of Parking Enforcement Activity? Is statutory guidance needed to promote consistency?

  Recruitment and training of the highest reasonable standard of parking attendants is a critical issue. While the occupation is suffering from unnecessary abuse and generally low pay levels it will be difficult to raise standards everywhere.

5.  Is the appeals process fair and effective? How could it be improved?

  From our members, we are aware of cases where appeals have been inadequately dealt with but this is hardly surprising in the vast numbers of offences and penalty charge notices issued. Furthermore every Local Authority has heard of quite exceptional excuses particularly from the perennial non-compliant parker, who is skilled in manufacturing of bogus excuses. Sometimes it is difficult to recognise the few genuine cases amongst so many bogus ones.

6.  Is it appropriate that Local Authorities should keep the revenue generated from parking fines? Is there any evidence that the opportunity to raise revenue through decriminalized parking enforcement has inappropriately influenced authorities' parking policy and enforcement activity?

  The failure of the Police to enforce parking regulations in the 1970s led to the 1991 Act. In order for Local Authorities not to subsidise car drivers (and particularly car drivers who have no respect for the "law") from poorer members of society (often non-car owners), it is only reasonable that the costs should go back to the drivers who have no respect for the parking regulations. With the history of development of parking control and the direct link between those offending and the need to make sure that they are caught, we strongly believe that Local Authorities should keep the revenue generated from parking penalty charge notices.

  All Local Authorities are charged with being as economical as they reasonably can with the cost of providing services, however what parking funds can be used on, either from on street parking charges or from penalty charge notices are strictly prescribed to be spent on transport related expenditure. This expenditure is generally for the public good and the people being required to pay are those that have less respect for other people and the law. This seems to be a very satisfactory situation. Nevertheless where expenditure from any parking surpluses is actually spent may benefit from being more transparent—the Local transport Plan process could be used to provide this transparency.

7.  What criteria should be used to determine the level of parking provision that should be provided?

  The level of parking to be provided in any town or any area of a town is to meet the local requirements. In the first instance the kerb side space should be reserved for safety, for ensuring reasonably free passage of vehicles along the network, then for essential loading and unloading facilities including particularly Public Transport, then to help other commercial interests in the area such as short term parking for business visits, shopping etc. Residents' parking is then a high priority, to allow people the level of service that can be gained in newer developments where off street parking provision is provided. The last priority, if a town can cope with car commuting, is to provide for long term parking.

  This hierarchy of space management and provision should all be as part of a package including on and off street parking wherever the Local Authority has sufficient controls and public backing to deal with the situation. Apart from these conflicting needs, which have to be balanced for each area (together with the costs of provision of parking and road space), we do not consider there are any further criteria that could be usefully employed for the level of parking provision, certainly not laid down on a national or regional basis.

8.  What are the wider impacts of current parking policy and illegally parked vehicles?

  In the answer to the seventh question raised by the Committee, (which we have answered first), we have already covered this question to a significant extent. There are however certain details and new developments in parking policy for specific areas that should be addressed as part of Local Authorities continual improvement programmes.

  The acute shortage of space in some older dense urban areas prevents some of the real priorities being adequately provided for in any controlled parking zone design. This together with, for example the growing size of delivery vehicles, presents constant strains to Local Authorities. Servicing of both commercial and residential premises is certainly an area which is being studied by a number of Local Authorities to try and improve the level of service whilst still maintaining the basic priorities and needs of a parking control system.

  For "illegally" parked vehicles there are a number of areas where regular "illegal" parkers manage to avoid complying with regulations on a consistent basis. Some of these are because of not properly registered vehicles, non UK licence plates duplicate number plates etc. Others are from the lack of Local Authorities powers to chase up past tickets when vehicles are clamped or impounded and also vehicles being occupied while causing a nuisance on street and being driven off whenever a parking attendant appears. All these ways in which enforcement is made very difficult are particular issues that need further attention.

9.  Other Issues

  Some other issues were touched in the first three paragraphs of the Committee's press notice. We are aware that some authorities do make substantial surpluses on car parking particularly Metropolitan Authorities where most of the parking and problems are in the central area. This may be a different Authority to outer areas. More transparency by Local Authorities as to exactly where the surpluses go could, we believe, help in assuaging resistance from some members of the public. Central London Authorities, particularly, are the Authorities with large surpluses and it is notable that such Authorities do have a generally higher standard of traffic and environmental management in their areas—a significant element of which is funded from parking surpluses.

  We also concur with the comment in the third paragraph of the Committee's press notice that there is a risk that public perception of parking may deteriorate if action is not taken to promote the legitimacy of parking control. We would strongly support any efforts on this front that can be made. This is covered in the second point above.

  Wheel clamping can potentially generate conflict on street, and is often a difficult activity for a Local Authority. Fairly few Local Authorities use wheel clamping. It is however a very visible deterrent to others and it is a punishment that generally fits the crime very well. The non-compliant driver parks in an unsuitable place for their own convenience, so inconveniencing others. To be inconvenienced by the length of time to get their vehicle back is often a more powerful deterrent than a fine which for some people is a very small part of their overall income. Vehicle removal has similar benefits in terms of those where the payment is not a large part of their income but is not so effective a deterrent when the vehicle is no longer visible to the next non-compliant parker.

  We do not generally support wheel clamping or tow away for small overstays at pay and display, however there may be a case for gradation of the penalty charge for overstaying at meters.

  Many of the issues to be discussed at the Transport Committee have been raised recently in reviews of parking carried out by others; we trust that the evidence from these other reviews will be put before the Transport Committee.

  We hope the information above will be useful to the Committee. We would be pleased to give oral evidence if required. Any questions on our evidence should in the first instance be directed to our Transport Committee Secretary John Elliott obtainable on 01227 765626, 07810 204400 or e-mail johnrelliott@btinternet.com.

September 2005





 
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