Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 141 - 159)

WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 2005

MR MIKE LINK, MR JOHN ELLIOTT, MR SEAMUS ADAMS AND MR TOM FRANKLIN

  Q141  Chairman: Good afternoon, gentlemen. The last should be first and the first last, so can I say I am delighted to see you here. Could I ask you to identify yourselves.

  Mr Link: I am Mike Link representing the Institution of Highways and Transportation.

  Mr Elliott: I am John Elliott representing the Technical Advisors Group of local government.

  Mr Adams: Seamus Adams, Assistant Director of Transportation for the London Borough of Hackney.

  Mr Franklin: I am the Chief Executive of the national charity Living Streets.

  Q142  Chairman: Thank you very much indeed. I am able to go straight to questions, am I, or did anyone want to say anything? No? Fine. Can I ask you all, are the links being made between parking policy, traffic management and street management?

  Mr Link: Not strongly enough would be the Institution's opinion. I think the recognition that parking is one of the building blocks is in fact insufficiently recognised. There was reference earlier to the fact that it is enshrined in local transport plans, the requirement for it. That is actually weakened in the second round of local transport plans, which is regrettable.

  Q143  Chairman: Weakened?

  Mr Link: Yes.

  Q144  Chairman: Have you got clear evidence of that?

  Mr Link: My understanding is that it is no longer a requirement of the second round of local transport plans.

  Q145  Chairman: Well, now we do have an immediate difference of view.

  Mr Link: In any event, there is very little emphasis placed upon it by Government through the Department for Transport. Their eyes now seem to be focused on Transport Innovation Funds and road charging, and the like, and yet for the vast majority of local authorities for many years to come parking management will represent a very valuable tool in managing traffic and making transport more sustainable and there is a danger that it will be overlooked. So the Institution would not agree with earlier comments that there is sufficient integration of parking strategies into transport policy at a local level.

  Q146  Chairman: That is interesting. Can I ask you, Mr Elliott, you have suggested there should be leadership on explaining the reasons for parking control, but who should that come from?

  Mr Elliott: I think it needs to come from central government first. To reiterate some of the things, there is not enough emphasis on parking control. For 95% of the time a vehicle is stationary. Far more attention is given to the time it is moving than the time it is stationary in Government policy and at all levels.

  Q147  Chairman: So you do not really think that either the Government or local authorities give sufficient attention to the consultation with the residents and the businesses?

  Mr Link: I would not like to suggest on behalf of the Institution that local authorities do not give attention to those things when they are introducing schemes.

  Q148  Chairman: No, but I was just wondering if you thought there was sufficient requirement on councils to take note of the demands of their local residents?

  Mr Link: I believe there is. Without wishing to advertise, the Institution produced this document earlier in the year. I was on the working group.

  Q149  Chairman: It is a very good document. I spent my August reading it. I just did decide halfway through August I was a sad person!

  Mr Link: Well, that makes two of us! To a large extent, we felt we were making the best of a bad job. It is so difficult to do what you are suggesting in the current circumstances. The policy lead from DfT is insufficient. The signing, as we heard earlier, is a disaster area. Police enforcement in most of the country has been non-existent for years, leading to parking regulations being ignored. Local authorities are coming in and in many cases re-establishing controls. Quite often the motives for doing that become confused. You have quite rightly identified that whilst some authorities might not set a target for income, once a budget forecast is made it is as good as a target and the original objectives for introducing schemes, which are about traffic management, free-flow and turnover, are often lost. If I may say so, the preponderance of thought given to enforcement and making that effective and fair ignores the reasons why the schemes were introduced. I think somebody said earlier the key thing is compliance and yet nowhere do we see performance being measured in terms of the compliance which is being achieved, the original objective for the scheme. I think to a certain extent the emphasis given to statistics between whether different authorities are successful in appeals or not, as we have heard, can represent all sorts of other things and are a very poor indicator of whether or not a scheme is performing well against its transport objectives.

  Mr Franklin: We think that there have been some improvements. We think that decriminalised parking enforcement has led to an improvement in many places in the country and in fact it has been a victim of its own success. It is not surprising that criticism has increased because actually there are more notices being issued and parking enforcement has got tougher. But we are concerned that there are two-thirds of the local authorities in this country where they do not have control over parking enforcement and we think that should be standardised across the country. We would also say actually that pavement parking in London is now far better than it has been in the past and that is because in London pavement parking is not allowed except in designated areas. But we think that should be extended across the country as a whole because parking on pavements is a massive issue for pedestrians, particularly for pedestrians with disabilities.

  Chairman: I think we want to explore both of those.

  Q150  Mr Martlew: You mentioned that decriminalisation has made it better and I look at your example of the City. Surely you can get better parking, but have you noticed that the traffic flow is any different? Is this not a failure of the systems?

  Mr Elliott: I think London traffic flow has improved throughout considering ever-increasing demands on it. Without parking control, which we have had since 1994 in London, I think the situation would be very much worse than it is now. Parking is the only measure of controlling traffic in outer London. In central London we have got an excellent public transport system and congestion charging, but in outer London it is working. In other cities, Oxford is a city where they have actually improved traffic flow quite dramatically over the years, despite—

  Q151  Mr Martlew: But this is the way they implement the scheme other than just fining people?

  Mr Elliott: Unless you have a mechanism there to say, "You park there and not there," and follow that up, your policies will never work. That was the trouble before decriminalised parking. We had a third of a million people parking illegally in central London every day and those were a third of a million trips in of extra traffic that we have got rid of, or we have got rid of a significant number of them because of decriminalised parking.

  Mr Adams: I think the other added benefits in terms of managing the roadside space, in terms of road safety, keeping junctions clear and pedestrian accessibility are paramount and that is themed through with the introduction of CPZs. It is the enforcement around those junctions. It is clear where there are no CPZs in built-up areas those junctions are parked up—

  Q152  Chairman: We try to avoid initials, Mr Adams. CPZs may be very close to you, but not to us.

  Mr Adams: I do apologise, controlled parking zones.

  Q153  Mr Martlew: If we can go on from that, the situation is that people get very annoyed if they are charged for overstaying, yet people do not appear to be implementing it outside schools with the zigzags? Is that a correct assumption?

  Mr Adams: I would say not, and certainly in the borough I represent—

  Q154  Mr Martlew: I am a bit worried that a lot of it is London-orientated. It is much better than the rest of the country, I will give you that, but it is not the norm.

  Mr Adams: I think road safety is paramount. Certainly for schools, zigzags, it is paramount that it is enforced rigorously and certainly in the authority I represent we rigorously enforce that and it is paramount in terms of road safety.

  Q155  Chairman: Does Mr Franklin want to make a comment on this?

  Mr Franklin: We would say that there are different levels of offences and that there should be greater enforcement around things, not just schools but also hospitals and places where there are likely to be more vulnerable pedestrians. We would actually favour differential rates in terms of fines, and so on, so that those infringements which really affect pedestrians, for instance parking on pavements, should be treated more seriously. We would like to see that measured through the performance indicator regime as well. So it is not just a blanket figure for the number of notices issued, it is looking at the type of the enforcement action which his being taken.

  Mr Link: If I may comment and draw the last two points together? There is far more chance of the sort of effective enforcement which is being talked about here where there is decriminalisation than where there is not. Therefore, I think a very clear view from the Institution would be that decriminalisation should be completed across the country as soon as possible.

  Q156  Chairman: Do you accept this argument that it works very efficiently if you have got a certain size of authority? Nobody is suggesting coterminosity, but the suggestion is you need a certain population size.

  Mr Link: It can work anywhere. There are examples where it is working in all sorts of different authorities and it provides the opportunity for local control and local discretion and local resources to target enforcement in areas where there is not decriminalisation and where the police are simply not resourced or prepared to do it.

  Q157  Mr Martlew: I have not been on the Committee very long, but obviously I am very jealous of the way in which London manages its traffic. It has already been mentioned that it is against the rules to park on a pavement in London. Do you believe that should be spread out throughout the country?

  Mr Elliott: Yes.

  Q158  Chairman: You are really pleading for consistency, are you not? If we had a code of conduct with an acceptable series of these very basic points, you are really pleading for consistency across all authorities, are you not?

  Mr Franklin: We are saying that what works should be adopted across the country.

  Q159  Chairman: How do we define what works? If you have got that formula in your pocket, you will be a very rich man because you will be a consultant to every government department I have every known.

  Mr Franklin: We do try, but to give you an example, we undertake community street audits with communities where we go out and we are looking at the streets and looking at what is good and what is bad about them, and we see a very big difference between what happens in London and the rest of the country. In the rest of the country communities are telling us, and we see it with our own eyes, that pavements are blocked. We have got the Disability Discrimination Act in this country, which means that public transport is becoming more accessible, which means that buildings are becoming more accessible, but it is no good if the pavements themselves in between those two are not accessible and what we are finding is that it is not just people in wheelchairs, it is parents with buggies and people with shopping having to go into the road to get past parked cars and there is absolutely no reason for it.


 
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