33.Driving onto the pavement is illegal and, in almost all cases, vehicles parked on the pavement will have been driven onto the pavement in breach of this law. It is unclear how widespread public awareness is of this offence.
34.Some evidence suggests drivers may do something even when they know it breaks the rules. Chris Theobald from Guide Dogs told us that a 2017 YouGov survey found that 55% of drivers had considered the impact of pavement parking on people with visual impairments but did it regardless. Ian Taylor from the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) said the majority of its members are aware of the rules but “as regards to practice, and what people think that they can get away with, because there has not been much actual enforcement where it is not allowed, people tend to do it”. Drivers can be unaware that it is illegal to drive on the pavement, are unaware of the implications of pavement parking, or do know but park on the pavement anyway because the threat of enforcement is low.
35.The issue of being able to get away with an offence because it is not enforced is an important one. Michael Ellis MP, the then Minister, acknowledged this when he told us “Many people feel that it is something that they are allowed to do, or they are in some doubt about whether they are allowed to do it and think that the rules may not be enforced […] it is not clear to every road user where the parameters are and how they apply”.
36.In the UK, once you have passed your driving test there is no compulsory re-testing. A driver is expected to keep up-to-date with any changes to the Highway Code, but this is not checked or recorded. To date the Government has never run a campaign to increase public awareness that driving onto the pavement is illegal or to raise awareness of the negative effects of pavement parking. We welcomed comments from Michael Ellis that this would change. He said:
… pavement parking is quite a visual image. I would have thought that a marketing campaign would be able to address it in quite a straightforward way and, hopefully, facilitate change. We are seeking to do that right now […] we would engage professionals to look at how we best relay the message to people that pavement parking is dangerous. It causes damage, loss and injury, and we know that it can cause death, and we want to address those issues.
However, we are concerned that Mr Ellis qualified this answer when he told us that “of course, budgets are finite and decisions have to be made. One has to look at where the most harm is being done and try to address those areas”. In a follow up letter to the Committee the Minister said that he would give “further consideration” to an awareness campaign about the difficulties caused by pavement parking.
37.We welcome the then Minister’s comments recognising how dangerous pavement parking can be and committing to consider a public awareness campaign on the issue. However, this does not go far enough. We are concerned that there is no real urgency in the Department for Transport to develop a campaign or to find a budget to fund it. A public awareness campaign will not solve the problem of pavement parking by itself, but it is a necessary part of any effort to curtail the incidence of pavement parking. It may reduce the number of people who knowingly break the law and change the behaviour of those who do not know and drive onto a pavement, or are unaware of the effect it has on other people. We recommend that the Department for Transport plan, fund and deploy a national awareness campaign to highlight that driving onto the pavement is illegal, and to show the negative consequences of pavement parking for pedestrians including older people, disabled people and children. This campaign should highlight the physical dangers involved in pavement parking; how it can cause social isolation; and aim to reduce the instances of pavement parking.
38.As described above, a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) is a tool that local authorities can use to place restrictions on traffic in their areas, including banning pavement parking in a specific area. There is an extensive network of TROs in place across the country. However, these tend to be for widespread on-street parking restrictions, limiting the movements of heavy goods vehicles and other traffic management purposes. Living Streets found that from 2016-2018 37% of local authorities had put TROs in place to restrict pavement parking.
39.We heard that there are several reasons why some councils are not using TROs to ban pavement parking in whole or part in their local areas. Simon Botterill from Sheffield City Council told us that the process is archaic: “We have a very dense legal system. In this day and age, we ought to be able to move more quickly on the processes and update our data faster and publish it. With the processes we have it is very difficult to move into the modern world”. The TRO discovery project funded by the Department for Transport encouraged the Department to address this issue, and the project report stated that the Department was commencing a 16-week legislative review of Traffic Regulation Order legislation.
40.Each TRO requires a consultation to allow people to object to a proposal. Tim Young, from Norfolk County Council, told us that TROs can be straightforward if there are no objections, however “If you get into a dialogue with local residents or stakeholder groups, it becomes very resource intensive for a local authority”.
41.Making a TRO can be a time consuming and expensive process. TROs are required by law to be advertised in a local newspaper with significant circulation. PATROL (Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London) told us this can cost up to £1,000. Simon Botterill told us that one recent advert cost £3,000. Surrey County Council said that they spend approximately £75,000 per year on advertising parking restriction notices alone. Tim Young from Norfolk County Council told us that the majority of the cost of making a TRO comes from the advertising requirements.
42.The Department for Transport has previously looked at removing the requirement to advertise in a newspaper. In 2011 an Impact Assessment was published. It had the policy aim to “remove the burdensome regulation […] by removing the duty to advertise TROs in local newspapers”. However, following public consultation in 2012 the Government concluded that withdrawing the requirement to advertise could undermine the local newspaper industry and as a result decided against any change.
43.Since the requirement to advertise in a print newspaper was first introduced in 1986 the way people consume local news has changed. Print circulation for UK local and regional newspapers more than halved in the decade to 2017—from 63.4 million to 31.4 million. According to research by Oxford’s Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, only one person in ten now reads a regional or local printed paper every week. Michael Ellis MP, the then Minister of State for Transport, told us that he wanted to “make sure that we continue our duty of ensuring that, when TROs are passed by a local authority, they are seen by as wide a range of people as possible”. The Government funded TRO discovery project reported that “Road users who responded to a Transport Focus survey told us that there are 8 methods that would better meet their needs for communication changes about the network than an official notice in the local paper” and that “only 7% of road users find out about plans for road network changes trough an official notice in the local paper.” Simon Botterill said that Sheffield City Council go beyond their statutory duty and generally post street notices and send letters to those affected by any TRO proposals. He told us that Sheffield does this “because it does not believe that the press offers that level of distribution of information to people”.
44.The TRO process can be difficult. Although local authorities can use these powers to ban pavement parking, there is little information on how widely they are used. If the TRO process was made easier and cheaper it would incentivise more local authorities to use these powers. We recommend that the Government bring forward proposals to reform the TRO process—to make it cheaper and easier for local authorities to use—and bring forward any required secondary legislation, if necessary, by spring 2020.
45.We believe that public consultation and the right of local people and businesses to object to any change that would have a material impact on their lives is an important part of the Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) process and must be retained. However, the TRO process has an onerous and outdated provision requiring advertisement in a local newspaper. It is vital that people who are affected by a TRO have time to object. Given the seismic changes to news consumption since these provisions were enacted, this imperfectly meets the policy objective of letting as many people as possible who may be affected know about a TRO. We recognise the importance of providing support for local newspapers, but if the Government wishes to do this, it should be done directly, not indirectly through the TRO process. The local authority is best placed to know how to communicate with the community it serves. People can only object if they are informed. Removing the requirement to advertise in a local newspaper would make the TRO process cheaper for local authorities and increase the likelihood of them using TROs to enact pavement parking bans. We recommend that the Government abolish the requirement to advertise TROs in a local newspaper. It should replace this with a requirement for the local authority to maximise the reach of its advertising to the largest number of people by whatever media would best achieve this. The Government should commit to achieving this by spring 2020: it should be delivered alongside the wider reforms to TROs recommended above.
46.The Committee received many pieces of evidence outlining examples of members of the public reporting issues relating to pavement parking being passed from the local authority to the police and back again. Crispin Blunt MP told us “I have contacted the Surrey County Council, Reigate & Banstead Council and the Police, each one passing the problem on to the other, with the result of course that no one takes any action”.
47.The police and local authorities have limited resources to enforce pavement parking restrictions. The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall told us that “there is little appetite for enforcement. The issue of resources […] is clearly a key reason for this”. The then Minister recognised that this was a problem but said that ultimately “it is about priorities and choices about what gets enforced”.
48.We heard evidence that some local authorities have submitted requests to the Department for Transport to decriminalise parking so they are able to enforce parking restrictions laid out in TROs. We understand that at least one local authority has been informed that the legislative process for doing this would be delayed due to the Parliamentary timetable for the UK exiting the European Union. We have heard that East Sussex County Council, as part of its parking decriminalisation submission for the area in and around Bexhill-on-Sea, where we saw ample evidence of a lack of parking enforcement by the police, had been given a provisional date by the Department for Transport for mid-2020, but due to resourcing issues within the Department we understand that this has been moved towards the end of 2020.
49.Areas which have not had their parking enforcement decriminalised lack the resources to ensure adequate parking enforcement. This can blight communities and encourages anti-social parking behaviour, such as pavement parking. We saw numerous examples of this anti-social behaviour during our visit to Bexhill-on-Sea. The then Minister, Michael Ellis MP, assured us that the application from East Sussex would be considered with haste. The Department for Transport must not drag its feet, citing external or resourcing issues, and must act now to meet the requests of local authorities to decriminalise pavement parking enforcement.
50.As set out in Chapter 2, above, to make the enforcement responsibilities of councils and the police clearer some local authorities have agreed a memorandum of understanding with their local police about enforcement policy. In Norfolk, the memorandum states that “If a wheelchair or child’s buggy can pass a vehicle parked on the footway then no enforcement action [by the police] will take place”.
51.The Committee received examples of good practice and suggestions for different types of enforcement and community initiatives to discourage pavement parking. Sadly, not all of these have proved to be sustainable. City of York Council said that they have tried leafleting cars when they do not allow sufficient space for a wheelchair or pushchair to pass by. Charnwood Borough Council told us it had run a campaign that gave a single point of contact to whom the public could report incidents of pavement parking where there was less that one metre to get past. There were clear instructions and the public were informed what constituted an offence. This was a joint initiative with the police but did not last: “in 2016 the Police felt they could not offer the resource to deal with these cases anymore. As a result, customers were passed to the council who have no powers where there are no signs and lines”.
52.The Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall told the Committee that there is widespread confusion and dissatisfaction with enforcement of pavement parking. The Government admitted in its evidence that the different enforcement roles of the police and local authorities are sometimes not clear. The then Minister, Michael Ellis MP, noted that “clearly, parking violations of any sort are not a high priority for the police”.
53.As pavement parking can have such a detrimental impact on the lives of millions of people, including vulnerable road users, the only effective deterrent to parking illegally on the pavement is robust enforcement. We recognise that police and local authority budgets are tight. However, both must do more to make it clear to everyone who has enforcement responsibility and commit to doing that enforcement where resources permit. This could be made easier with consistent messaging. We recommend that the Government undertake actions to ensure that local authorities and police forces have access to the correct information about who enforces which offences and they are clear about their responsibilities. They should also commit to publicise to the general public who enforces which offences as part of the public awareness campaign we recommended above.
54.Most people understand that restricting the width of the pavement can cause an obstruction. The then Minister, Michael Ellis MP, said that “most of us would recognise when a vehicle is parked in such a way that it obstructs lawful road users”. We have been given different views on what is an acceptable width for pedestrians to be able to use the pavement. Ian Taylor from the Alliance of British Drivers (ABD) said that 1.2 metres would be acceptable. The Department for Transport’s inclusive mobility guidance says that, where possible, the width of a pavement should be 2 metres.
55.Local authorities, including those in London, would like a clear legal definition of obstruction. Spencer Palmer from London Councils said that the crucial questions are “when is an obstruction an obstruction and what is the clear width you need?”. Lincolnshire County Council said they would “welcome updated statutory guidance” on the matter.
56.Some local authorities would like obstruction decriminalised so that the offence can be enforced by local authorities, rather than the police. York City Council told us this change would take pressure off the police. PATROL (Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London) have called for the Government to “add highway obstruction by a stationary vehicle to the list of contraventions for which civil enforcement applies”. Louise Hutchinson from PATROL told us that local authorities want to share these powers with the police.
57.Before obstruction could be decriminalised it would have to be clearly defined in statute. Defining obstruction is likely to be difficult. The standard textbook, Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences, has 12 densely-packed paragraphs explaining the degree and definition of ‘obstruction’ as it has been defined in caselaw over the past 100 years. Much turns on the question of “intent” in the current offences—e.g. whether obstructive parking is “wilful” or has been “caused” or “permitted”. The Minister of State for Transport, Michael Ellis MP, told us that “The use of the words “obstructing” or “obstruction” is known to law, and, with work, no doubt we could come to an agreement about what amounts to obstruction”.
58.Enforcement of parking offences is not a priority for the police. We believe that creating a new civil offence of obstructive pavement parking would take some burden from the police and allow for better, more consistent enforcement. It is important that enforcement sits with the body most able to enforce it: the evidence points to local authorities being that body, and in general they seem to want these powers. This would take time to accomplish. A new offence would have to be defined in law before local authorities could assume the relevant enforcement powers. We recommend that the Government consult on a new offence of obstructive pavement parking, with a view to making such an offence subject to civil enforcement under the Traffic Management Act 2004 and introducing the relevant legislation by summer 2020.
59 [Chris Theobald]
62 Except in the case of retesting following a driving ban or in some cases of medical withdrawal of a driving licence.
63 This largely only manifests in the event of a driving offence being committed - ignorance of the law is not a defence. Similarly, there is no offence of disobeying the Highway Code per se, but failure to observe its advice can constitute evidence of carelessness, or in extreme cases even dangerous driving.
68 These can be made under Parts I and IV of the .
69 Living Streets (), page 17; 38 of 103 local authorities who responded to Living Streets’ 2018 freedom of information request put pavement parking TROs in place between 2016 and 2018.
72 Mayor of Greater Manchester and Greater Manchester Cycling and Walking Commissioner (), Northumberland County Council (), Surrey County Council (), Hertfordshire County Council (), PATROL (Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London) (), Liverpool City Council (), Cambridgeshire County Council (), Brighton & Hove City Council (), Durham County Council (), Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (), Devon County Council (), The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (), East Hampshire District Council ()
73 Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996 (SI 1996/2489) as amended,
74 PATROL (Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London) ()
76 Surrey County Council ()
78 Department for Transport, , 22 August 2011, page 1
79 HC Deb 7 February 2013, Westminster Hall
80 The Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations (). This requirement was renewed and revised in 1989—The Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations ()—and most recently in 1996—Local Authorities’ Traffic Orders (Procedure) (England and Wales) Regulations 1996 ().
81 Mediatique report for Department for Digital, Culture, Media & Sport, , April 2018
82 Reuters Institute for the Study of Journalism, , pp62–63
83 [Michael Ellis]
84 GeoPlace, , 30 August 2019, p22
86 Miss Lisa Boocock (), Mrs Anna Langley (), Chris Garbett (), J Ardron (), Bristol Walking Alliance (), Pedestrian Liberation (), The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (), CycleSheffield (), Graham Turnbull (), Mr Mike Parker (), Mr Anthony Keith Marquis (), Mr Jerry Cullum (), Mr Morris Steel (), Mr Neil Meadows (), Mr James Burton (), Jamie Wood (), Green Councillors’ Group, Bristol City Council (), Mrs Laurence Pinturault (), Matthew Wilson (), Andrew Foxcroft (), Crispin Blunt MP (), Mr Mark Kemp (), Birmingham and Black Country Sight Loss Councils (), PATROL (Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London) (), Mr Steve Hamilton (), Mr Andrew Barclay (), Northumberland County Council (), Guide Dogs (), Mr S.J. Eastwood, Snr. (), Ms Deborah Watson (), Cycle Basingstoke (), Mr William McKinnon (), Mr Tim Pickering (), Dr Martin Parretti (), Mr Jeremy Varns (), Chris Maxim (), Living Streets-additional written evidence ()
87 Crispin Blunt MP ()
88 Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall ()
89 [Michael Ellis]
90 Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council (), Devon County Council (), City of York Council ()
91 Norfolk County Council and Norwich City Council ()
92 City of York Council ()
93 Charnwood Borough Council ()
94 Police and Crime Commissioner for Devon and Cornwall ()
95 Department for Transport (), para 44
99 Department for Transport, , 15 December 2005, Para 3.1
101 Lincolnshire County Council ()
102 The East Riding of Yorkshire Council (), City of York Council (), Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole Council (), Brighton & Hove City Council (), Surrey County Council ()
103 City of York Council ()
104 PATROL (Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London) (); Traffic Management Act 2004 , Part 1
106 Kevin McCormac (General editor), Wilkinson’s Road Traffic Offences, 28th edition (London 2017), paras 6–210 to 6–221
Published: 9 September 2019