David Smith of the British Parking Association reports on the recent Parkex event where Robert Goodwill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport led a seminar on the government’s current and future thinking on parking policy
In June, the parking profession gathered for their annual trade show and exhibition, Parkex. Anyone who attended would have been impressed, not just by the range of products and services on show but by the innovative way in which the operators and manufacturers are getting their messages across.
But it wasn’t just exhibitors who were making themselves heard. The BPA’s voice has seemingly reverberated around Westminster recently and this year’s Parkex Seminar Theatre Hub opened with an opportunity to hear from Robert Goodwill, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State for Transport, on the government’s current and future thinking on parking policy. As you would expect, there were many people in the audience who were very interested in what the Minister had to say. And he certainly didn’t disappoint.
“If it looks like a parking bay, it is a parking bay,” he said at one point, confirming that there will be changes to give local authorities greater freedom and make life simpler for motorists. He was referring to the current review of Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2015 (TSRGD 2015) upon which the BPA has contributed to, working closely with colleagues in the Institute of Highways Engineers in developing our response.
The BPA supports the general approach to TSRGD 2015 to provide less regulation and more flexibility for highway authorities and local councils but also that appropriate guidance must be published at the same time as the new TSRGD. It is important for local authorities to consult local people and stakeholders before introducing new or changed parking controls to avoid criticism that controls are unclear or unwanted.
There is a clear need to reduce sign clutter and allow parking places without upright signs so long as the motorist is properly informed about the prevailing parking rules and has the opportunity to comply.
We have urged government to play a role in informing the statutory adjudication services of these changes and have offered to work with DfT and the Information Commissioner to understand better how mobile traffic management cameras can be properly deployed.
Mr Goodwill’s speech continued with praise for the private parking sector for showing that industry self-regulation can succeed and it was noted that parking professionals are providing well-designed, fair and proportionate parking services.
The establishment of Parking on Private Land Appeals (POPLA), providing motorists with independent and free appeals, was highlighted as an example of the high standards that are often promoted by parking professionals. Mr Goodwill concluded that the Government recognised that the sector is providing well-designed, fair and proportionate parking services.
Quite a different message to the one emanating from Westminster last year when a significant series of public attacks by ministers in the Communities & Local Government Department in relation to local authority parking enforcement were completely at odds with that of the Department for Transport. Those working in the parking profession found it strange that one department could speak so publicly about the policy of another, particularly when the ideas coming from DCLG were not particularly well thought through. One such idea involved allowing motorists to stop on double yellow lines for up to 15 minutes, so they could pop in to buy a newspaper of pint of milk. All of this, they felt, would help revitalise the high street by encouraging more people to visit their town centres.
What this fails to understand is that delivery vehicles are already permitted to stop on yellow lines in order to service local businesses. Disabled people displaying blue badges are also able to stop on yellow lines for up to three hours in England and Wales.
By allowing anybody to park on yellow lines – quite apart from the confusion that this would create for the average motorist – it would discriminate against those vehicles which are most needed to maintain close access to premises. If this is about revitalising the high street, denying delivery vehicles the ability to unload goods to adjacent shops will damage it far more than encouraging car-borne traffic to park a short way away from their destinations.
The Government had previously made its position on the use of CCTV very clear by expressly stating that it intended to abolish the use of CCTV cameras for parking enforcement.
At Parkex, Mr Goodwill stressed the need for the public to have confidence that cameras should only be used to promote safety and to tackle congestion, highlighting four key areas: around schools, in bus lanes, at bus stops, and on red-routes.
Add to this Mr Pickles proclamation whilst on a visit to Bedford recently that he didn’t actually mind the use of camera vans if they concentrate on dangerous places and it seems as though the BPA’s decision to seek clarity on government policy on parking and lobby against a complete ban on CCTV has paid dividends.
The BPA has worked closely with DCLG and DfT during this period to ensure that the message is driven home that local authority parking managers work very hard to deliver their objectives of reducing congestion and improving road safety through good parking management, but also strive to promote economic success in their towns and cities.
We have also worked with the Ministry of Justice as they introduced changes to bailiff regulations, which came into force on 6th April. Although we would have preferred to have seen some independent regulation of the sector, we have accepted the government’s philosophy around light touch regulation and worked with them to ensure a smooth transition to the new regulations.
Our work continues with stakeholders representing the motorist and the consumer, involving them in the decision-making process of the Association. Our attendance at the party conferences in the autumn underlines the importance of working with politician stakeholders to define how parking should be delivered and how policy should be manufactured for the sector. This year’s fringe events will have a theme around the local authority parking agenda and examine how good parking management enhances the High Street whilst bad parking management can damage it.
We have recently launched our 5th Annual Master plan, which sets out what we believe the parking profession must do together to raise standards. If we achieve these aims, we feel our members will be able to provide better services for the motorist, as we ultimately want to ensure that the customer is always at the heart of our thinking.
People have the right to expect a high standard of parking management and service providers have a responsibility to provide this in a professional manner. Motorists have a responsibility to learn and observe parking rules and regulations, and parking operators and parking service providers have a right to expect compliance from people who use and benefit from those parking services. Local councils have a duty to serve and respond to local needs and should have the right to do so in a responsible manner.
We will strive to deliver better value to our members by working closely with stakeholders, members and government to achieve our vision of excellence in parking for all. Promoting innovation, technology and sustainability will drive up standards and continue to make parking a recognised profession.
These objectives are by no means exhaustive, and the changes in our Master Plan each year continue to reflect our profession as it develops and matures. By continuing to work in a consultative and constructive manner, we aim to achieve the best outcome for the motorist and the wider parking profession.
Working with government
The BPA continues to work closely with our Scottish, Welsh and Irish members who participate through strong groups that meet regularly in those countries. We have worked closely with the governments of those countries; and in particular in Wales have achieved some of our Master Plan objectives including the introduction of moving traffic contraventions. In Northern Ireland, we continue to work well with the Republic in developing that relationship, launching a joint Master Plan with the Irish Parking Association in September. In particular, we have worked with the ministers in Northern Ireland to find a solution to the private parking sector issues there.
Informing and influencing government on matters relating to the design, economics and regulation of parking and traffic management is a key objective of the BPA’s and we actively seek to raise awareness of current issues and provide important information to help key decisions and policies made in government at both a local and national level. We continue to seek engagement with stakeholders who have similar objectives, with the overall aim of delivering a considered and respected voice in relation to parking and traffic management matters.