Select Committee on Transport Seventh Report



The importance of complying with parking regulations

283. Non-compliance with parking controls is endemic in the UK. We had evidence that only about a tenth of parking contraventions result in a Penalty Charge Notice being issued.[238]

284. Critics of parking enforcement can fail to recognise the importance of enforcement in keeping traffic moving, bus services running to time, and ensuring road safety. The Institution of Highways and Transportation summarised the important effect of parking contraventions on the transport network:

    Taken in isolation individual acts of non-compliance usually have little measurable effect. However, when non-compliance becomes the norm, the result is adverse impact on road safety, on accessibility, on the local environment and on the economy while the financial and policy base for providing off-street parking can be undermined. Public transport users and the elderly and disabled are among those that are disadvantaged by inconsiderate and 'illegal' parking.[239]

285. While parking regulations and their enforcement mean less absolute freedom for individuals, there is a high degree of support from the public for controls and for firm action to deter contraventions. The 2004 Association of London Government Survey of Londoners found that 67 per cent of Londoners thought that action against illegal parking in London should remain the same or get stronger.[240]

Raising awareness

286. We heard evidence that people park illegally from selfish motives.[241] We accept this, but many people will contravene parking regulations because they have failed to understand the restrictions in force. All parking policies should make clear why the management of parking is necessary, and explain the rationale for particular restrictions.

287. 'Living Streets' summarised the advantages of better publicity in this context:

    The regime is there to make life tolerable for everyone, but if it is not explained properly to drivers, they can feel they are being unfairly penalised. Public awareness campaigns to explain to drivers what to look for when they park, and why the different kinds of restrictions are in place, are needed.[242]

The Institution of Highways and Transportation identified that the most successful decriminalised parking enforcement schemes had been supported by good public relations strategies.[243] The Technical Advisers Group suggested that all levels of government, as well as professional groups, should take every opportunity to work with the press to raise awareness and explain the issues.[244] First Group Plc suggested that information about parking regulations and the importance of compliance should be provided in the information packs posted out with Council Tax information.[245] Publicity campaigns would be particularly useful in council areas about to commence civil parking enforcement.

288. Many people see the point of sensible parking constraints without which management of our streets would be impossible. There are good grounds for believing that compliance with parking rules would be higher however if more people understood the reasons for having parking controls and associated enforcement. There is strong support in the transport sector for information strategies to achieve this result. All councils which embark on civil parking enforcement must undertake (and review subsequently) a thorough publicity campaign to raise levels of understanding about parking regulation and to promote public debate as to why compliance is important. Embarking on such a campaign only when public confidence in the enforcement regime is in tatters is not good enough. The Department for Transport must support public communications exercises, and should make appropriate publicity material available on a national basis.

289. The process of learning to drive presents another opportunity to explain the importance of compliance with parking regulations, and how to identify those that are in force.[246] When people are learning how to drive the importance of parking regulations should be an integral part of their instruction. The Department for Transport must explore whether more can be done to reinforce the message of responsible compliance as a part of driving instruction and the driving examination. Consideration should be given by the Department about whether there is scope for fuller advice on parking to be provided in the Highway Code.

Consultation, consent, engagement

290. Better public acceptance of the regulations in force will also be promoted if local people are involved more extensively in the process of making the regulations. The Procedure Regulations process requires local authorities to consult local representatives before adopting parking regulations.[247] The Institution of Highways and Transportation, which has recently published good practice guidance entitled, 'Parking Strategies and Management', indicated that consultation should be used to define clear objectives for parking strategies and policies.[248] The Department told us:

    The first thing that an authority needs to do to achieve public understanding and acceptance of its parking policies is to carry out full and open consultation on draft policies before bringing them into force... They will then have to take account of the responses. Local authorities need to know what is required by residents, businesses and visitors; introduce policies and regulations that balance those needs; and then enforce them fairly and reasonably.

291. There is scope however for doing more than a 'one off' consultation. We took evidence about the benefits of continuing to consult local representatives to ensure regulations remain relevant.[249] The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea explained its process for responding to local need through consultation:

    In 2000 the Council consulted every household in the Borough requesting their views on whether the controls should be extended to evenings and weekends. Controls were extended during the evenings but only in a coherent way to minimise confusion... The key point is that the Council rarely initiates change but change comes from representations from, and then consultation with, the local community (emphasis applied).[250]

292. Camden Council described the important role that thorough local consultation can have in shaping views and designing policies which, when implemented, command local support and successfully meet local requirements. The Council explained that it has only proceeded on the basis of extensive and detailed consultation, which has sought to establish community support for controls:

    It is, perhaps, pertinent to note that although many people may well initially be opposed to or sceptical about parking controls, when the subject is considered in detail during consultations, and the pros and cons are carefully weighed, there has always eventually been a clear majority in favour of controls. It is also worth noting that in every case where a new Controlled Parking Zone has been reviewed after at least 6 months of operation, support for controls has generally increased.[251]

293. The point of consultation about parking controls is that it should be a process and not a single event. This is because the needs of localities will change over time and controls will require updating. Consultation is not only a process of engagement with local people, but involves gaining continuing consent. Regular local consultation and evaluation are essential to achieve such a high level of legitimacy in parking regimes. The Department for Transport should ensure at the least that a commitment to consultation is made mandatory prior to the adoption of civil parking enforcement powers. It should promote a sophisticated approach to local consultations on parking. The success or failure of local authorities' parking measures depends upon a high level of local acceptance and active cooperation.

238   Ev 47 Back

239   Ev 44 Back

240   Ev 136, Ev 19 Back

241   Ev 01  Back

242   Ev 51 Back

243   Ev 44 Back

244   Ev 47 Back

245   Ev 166 Back

246   Ev 6, Ev 47 Back

247   Para 168 Back

248   Ev 44 Back

249   Ev 136, Ev 148 Back

250   Ev 148 Back

251   Ev 136 Back

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Prepared 22 June 2006