Select Committee on Transport Minutes of Evidence


Examination of Witnesses (Questions 160 - 179)

WEDNESDAY 7 DECEMBER 2005

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

  Q160  Mr Martlew: To come back again to where London seems to do it very well is with the bus lanes and the parking in bus lanes. Are you of the opinion that London is the only centre which actually controls it properly and the rest of the country is lagging behind? Is that the view?

  Mr Elliott: No. I think London has an advantage because it has had decriminalisation since 1994, so it has had a longer time to get its act together. It has also been in the traffic limitation business since 1958 or thereabouts when the first meter appeared. Lots of historic cities like York, I mentioned Oxford before, and Cambridge are very good examples where there is a traffic imperative to get this right. Without then the follow up with enforcement it all falls apart.

  Q161  Mr Martlew: The good practice is not spread throughout the country, is that what you are saying?

  Mr Elliott: I think it is a case of what is the priority in an area. Lots of areas do not have the sorts of traffic pressures which the big cities, the historic cities or the city centres of major conurbations have, so it does not case the same sorts of problems when people do break the laws of traffic flow and the general management of transport. So it is not just London. London has had longer at it, but it is a lot of other places where they have a real issue, where it becomes less of an issue. It is more difficult for you folks as representatives of people to push things like this at a local level.

  Q162  Chairman: That is far off the point though, Mr Elliott, is it not, because you have just assured me that decriminalisation should exist all the way across the United Kingdom. How are they going to pay for it, because smaller councils in smaller towns are going to find it rather difficult, are they not, to actually pay for recruiting, for maintaining a team of attendants and to maintain all the back-office staff with all the equipment which is going to be necessary?

  Mr Elliott: It is much harder in smaller authorities and I think small authorities have got to get together in some way, either under a country banner or get joint working arrangements.

  Chairman: We await with great interest the effect of that!

  Q163  Clive Efford: Could I ask Mr Link, is the planning policy guidance on parking provision appropriate and would you like to see it changed in any way?

  Mr Link: You are referring here to PPG13. Undoubtedly the implementation of these policies is putting more pressure on on-street parking, if that is behind your question, but then if the policy was going to be effective that was an inevitable consequence, that behaviour would have to change and that that would be uncomfortable. So I am not sure if you are suggesting that it can be implemented without those problems.

  Q164  Clive Efford: I am asking you whether there is any way it could be improved?

  Mr Link: Without un-picking the policy, then I do not think it can be. If the policy is going to work and if the policy is correct in terms of changing behaviour and travel demands and people's propensity to own cars, or use them, then it was bound to have an impact upon on-street parking in certain areas.

  Mr Franklin: I think there are probably other things which can be done in addition. It is not just about the number of parking spaces, it is also thinking about the design of neighbourhoods, are they walkable, are local facilities within walking distance? All of these things make a very big difference on the demand for car use. With new developments, are there facilities there for cycling? So many new homes are designed in such a way that actually it is very difficult to own and to use a bike on a regular basis. Car clubs are another very effective way in new developments of reducing the level of demand for cars. I think all of these measures together with parking can make a difference in terms of car use locally.

  Mr Elliott: Can I add on that, obviously the PPG and management parking enforcement are to some extent the stick. The carrots, as Mr Franklin has explained, need to be there as well—the improved public transport and all the other bits. But PPG13 is possibly long-overdue. I quoted what Buchanan was saying about traffic in towns in 1962. It was not until 1969 the standard changed in London, having had very clear advice seven years earlier, and it is not until basically 2000 that it changed in the rest of the country.

  Q165  Chairman: If we had followed some of his recommendations about ringroads and various other rather basic bits of planning we would have been in a much better situation many years ago.

  Mr Elliott: They were not actually recommendations, they were examples of how you could, if you wanted to, reconstruct towns, but fortunately, I think, we have not reconstructed towns.

  Chairman: They should have been recommendations.

  Q166  Clive Efford: In relation to PPG3, which sets a maximum for on-street parking spaces according to the availability of local public transport means, is that sensible? Most people have a car for domestic or pleasure use anywhere regardless of whether they travel to work by public transport. Is PPG3 a sensible way to try to reduce car use by saying less parking spaces will result in less parkings?

  Mr Link: I think given the caveats earlier about also providing the alternatives in well-planned developments, then yes, it is effective and there is evidence that across the country local authorities can live, if you like, within those new maximums.

  Q167  Clive Efford: Are you aware of any councils which have got any innovative schemes such as giving priority to car-share schemes in their parking policy?

  Mr Franklin: There is a whole series of housing associations in West London, for instance, who are working on car-free development schemes where there are car club schemes as part of those, and certainly within some local authorities it becomes a planning condition that the developer actually supports the setting up of a car club. So these things can work. They are difficult and I think each new development needs to be taken on its merits because they are not all the same and it does depend on all of those other factors too. Car-free developments without those other things will not work, but I think with them car-free developments and reduced parking are part of that mix.

  Q168  Clive Efford: Do you think that local authorities do enough to encourage park and ride schemes, either parking at rail heads or at other transport termini in their planning strategies? Do you think they do enough of that?

  Mr Elliott: Park and ride is an interesting phenomenon. There are certain sorts of condition for it to work well, historic towns with highly-controlled central areas, ringroads, limited numbers of access roads. You have got to be very careful also that you do not take people off the ordinary bus services or anything else, that they drive all the way into the park and ride and then take the park and ride. There is also a bit of a financial distortion in the way park and ride is treated. Local authorities can effectively subsidise park and ride whereas it is much, much harder since the 1985 Bus Act to do the same for ordinary buses. So I think there is a distortion. One has to be very careful of park and ride. It has its places. They are incredibly successful places, park and ride, Oxford being an example. London exists on a tremendous amount of park and ride, but you have to be careful; it does not apply everywhere.

  Q169  Clive Efford: I am interested that you say that about London. At the risk of upsetting Mr Martlew further, in and around London, do you think there is enough strategic thinking around providing parking spaces which could help reduce car use and the number of journeys undertaken into London?

  Mr Elliott: Unfortunately, there has been a gap, obviously, between the GLC being abolished and TfL picking up the reins when those sorts of strategic issues could not be looked at properly. For my sins, I worked for Barking and Dagenham at one stage, ideal park and ride sites for central London, but Barking and Dagenham would have no benefit from it, it would be Westminster which would benefit, unless Westminster gave some money to Barking and Dagenham.

  Q170  Chairman: That does happen though, does it not? The City of London has arrangements with local authorities around them to provide certain services for which they make a monetary contribution. So it is not entirely beyond the wit of councils to get together and plan that sort of application, is it?

  Mr Elliott: No, but it is harder because the City of London would be buying its services on specific items. It would be Westminster, Camden, the City of London, Southwark and Lambeth who would all have a benefit from Barking and Dagenham providing a park and ride service. TfL can now handle that.

  Q171  Mrs Ellman: Would you say that local authorities have used parking policy for traffic management measures?

  Mr Elliott: I would say not enough, no, obviously as a professional transport planner and having worked in this field for a long time. There are a lot of things working against it, from Government funding to public reaction, comments about Buchanan. Do people know about it? Do they know about those sorts of issues of planning transport? I do not think any of us have told the public enough about the why of transport; it has always been, "What is the latest point I could score?"

  Mr Link: I would agree with the point in your question. I think I said earlier that it is an underrated part of the toolkit, as it were, of traffic management techniques and in danger of becoming more sidelined in terms of the emphasis given to it by Government, which is looking elsewhere. I think there is a feeling that Government has said, "There's decriminalisation of parking. Get on with it," and the main focus from the Department for Transport now is the Transport Innovation Fund and congestion charging and the like whereas, as I have said, for the vast majority of local authorities for many years to come, this will be one of their main techniques for managing demand.

  Mr Franklin: It is not just transport, it is also streetscape issues as well. I do not think there is enough of a link between parking and the wider streetscape issues. All of the surveys show that the public see a very clear link between the quality of their life locally and all of those sorts of issues to do with traffic management and general streetscape and I think there is a lot more which could be done with using parking in terms of improving the general quality of the local environment.

  Q172  Mrs Ellman: What do you think could be done to make people more aware of the impact of parking on streetscape issues? What can change it?

  Mr Franklin: Firstly, Lewisham Council held a citizen's jury about a year ago when it took a representative sample of people and sat them down and over several days they went into a lot of detail about car use, and so on. They measured people's views at the beginning of that process and at the end and what they found was a significant shift of about 20% in the hardening of people's attitudes towards greater control of the use of the car because as people became more aware of those issues and were sometimes for the very first time made aware of some of the negatives of unimpeded car use people's attitudes started to change. I think that shows that by that greater debate it is possible for people to see both the positives and the negatives of car use and become much more rational about it.

  Q173  Mrs Ellman: Should parking policies be included in the Transport Innovation Fund?

  Mr Link: The guidance on the bids for Transport Innovation Funds put what we are talking about, i.e. ordinary parking controls and management, right at the bottom of the pile in terms of the Government's view on what was necessary for a successful bid. Any bids which relied upon traditional traffic management parking techniques got nowhere near acceptance.

  Q174  Mrs Ellman: So do you think that should be changed?

  Mr Link: I am not suggesting that there is not a role for the Transport Innovation Fund and the things it is promoting. I think my point was that we are in danger of losing focus on what will be for the majority of local authorities the technique they could use, and they are not getting sufficient help at the moment in using it. We have mentioned signing several times and making parking more acceptable to the public. One of the top three, if not the top reason for people appealing is that they do not understand the signs. Two years ago TRL produced a report for DfT on how to improve signing and two years later we are waiting to see whether it gets turned into new signing guidance. It is well overdue. Most professionals cannot understand what the signs mean!

  Q175  Mrs Ellman: How widespread is this problem about signage? Should it be looked at nationally?

  Mr Adams: I think it is very confusing for somebody who does not know what particular signs mean. As Mr Link said, even for some professionals it is difficult. There is so much variance and different types of signs. I think we need to streamline it and make it far easier for the public to understand in terms of where they go, from one local authority to the next. A uniform approach is certainly needed and needed quickly.

  Mr Franklin: I think they could also help with the appearance of streets, too, because I think this is a case where less is more. Less signage and less rules, but actually a greater effort to make sure that everybody understands what those rules are. So by having fewer signs our streets could look better and we could make sure people understood those fewer rules better than the plethora out there at the moment.

  Q176  Mrs Ellman: Should pavement parking be an offence across the UK?

  Mr Adams: I think it is difficult to have a general rule about pavement parking because you have some streets which are old, Victorian streets where there is virtually no parking if you do not park on the pavement. I do agree we should minimise it where we possibly can.

  Mr Franklin: The problem with that is we cannot just look at the needs of the parked cars, we also have to look at the needs of pedestrians too. In some cases it may be that it is okay to park on the pavement because there is enough room for pedestrians, but if it is a choice between parking on the pavements because there is no room for parking and blocking the pavements completely for pedestrians then I think in terms of the transport hierarchy every time the pedestrians' needs need to come first.

  Q177  Mrs Ellman: How should that be addressed?

  Mr Franklin: I think it should be almost like an opt-in situation rather than an opt-out situation. So instead of in the rest of the country it is the case that there can be zones where it is not allowed to park on the pavement but they have to be very specifically identified, there should be zones where it is specifically identified that you can park on the pavement. But as a general rule, everybody should know that you do not park on the pavement unless it is specifically allowed.

  Q178  Mrs Ellman: Should there be more parking capacity at rail stations?

  Mr Link: If only, I think would be the answer across the majority of the country. In most cases, it is not physically possible or affordable and many rail station car parks are full from early in the morning and this is preventing more rail use off-peak, i.e. the fact that they are full.

  Mr Elliott: But you also need to back it up because lots of stations could be reached by bicycle, on foot or by local bus services. Those should be preferable to parking at the station. So you have got to actually provide those sorts of sticks and carrots along the way so people choose the best first and work down the hierarchy.

  Mr Adams: I agree with what John said in terms of the fact that you have to look at the interchanges between the different modes of transport and I think probably improve the interchange in terms of bus to train, etc. It is not about one approach fits all, I think you have to look at where the train stations are located, what usage there is in terms of can they get there by bike and other forms of interchange so that we can promote that instead of using the car just to get to the station.

  Q179  Clive Efford: But there is an issue about the home to mode of transport journey, is there not, particularly for women and people perhaps with mobility problems? We need to accommodate with rail head parking and those sorts of issues. Is that not an issue which we ought to be considering more?

  Mr Franklin: For I think probably much smaller sums of money improving key walking routes would do more in terms of increasing the accessibility of things like railway stations than any amount of additional parking at railway stations. The fact is that so many of those routes are poor in terms of lighting, in terms of the short-cuts which could be made in terms of making it easier for a much larger group of people to access railway stations on foot.


 
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