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02 February 2018

Effective parking management can help us live in a cleaner safer and less congested world

BPA chief Executive Andrew Pester writes for the New Statesman

At first glance it may seem a mundane topic, but each journey on our roads begins and ends with parking. It takes such an important role in everyone’s lives and when we look to the future, we all have a desire to live in a cleaner, safer, less congested world where we can move around freely and easily.

Effective parking management enables this to happen every day. Without it, access to places and people would be significantly harder. Effective management ensures that parking isn’t a free-for-all. In our view the blanket removal of parking controls isn’t the answer, as seen when Scottish and Welsh hospitals abolished charges for use. We saw a situation where parking spaces were taken up by commuters and staff, to the detriment of patients and visitors.

This free-for-all spilled out into surrounding residential streets filled with people who could not find a space at the hospital. In some cases, bus companies refused to offer a service because they couldn’t get through congested streets. There was also a fear that children from nearby schools were being put at risk by reduced visibility as they crossed the street. A policy designed to benefit people actually meant that the most vulnerable and those that rely on public transport were most affected.

There are costs associated with providing parking such as surfacing, fencing and cleaning car parks. Where tariffs apply, there is also the cost of collecting that charge. Someone, somewhere, has to pay for all this. Furthermore, demand for parking spaces often outstrips supply. Effective demand management helps to enable positive outcomes such as patient access to hospitals or more vibrant high streets.

In order to ease congestion and get cars quickly and efficiently into parking spaces, local authority and private parking provision need work in conjunction as seamlessly as possible. With 39m vehicles on Britain’s roads, and increasing every year, it is essential that parking is provided, well managed, and that it works.

Levelling the playing field

There are stringent laws surrounding the way councils manage parking. Enforcement income is ring-fenced and can only be spent on car parks, roads and public transport subsidies. While many people think that councils make surpluses from parking ticket income, the costs of enforcement are high and in most cases it is barely covered by parking ticket income.

Private parking is managed by contract law, which some believe does not have full authority. This is not true. However, proper regulation of the sector would ensure consistent standards are applied across the board. In 2007, we introduced a code of practice for private parking operators which continues to set the standard today. The code is a living document that is continually improved and updated in consultation with motoring groups, consumer groups, government and others.

Accompanied by a full internal and third-party audit and Scheme of Sanctions, for many years motorists have been treated more fairly. In 2012 we launched POPLA, an independent appeals service for parking charge notices issued on private land in England and Wales. This service is free to the motorist and run independently of the BPA, in agreement with government.

In our continuing work with government over a number of years, we have been calling for better regulation of the private parking sector. We believe all operators should adhere to a single Code of Practice, for motorists to have access to a single independent appeals service, and for the establishment of a single standards setting body to oversee this. This will ensure fairness and avoid any potential race to the bottom when it comes to eradicating bad practices.

We have a situation where there is more than one code of practice for private operators – and the potential exists for more. Multiple codes create confusion in how they are applied and how appeals processes work.

We therefore very much welcome the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill sponsored by Sir Greg Knight MP and in Scotland, the Members Bill launched by Murdo Fraser MSP, both of which we hope will tackle all of these issues – and provide greater consistency for all.

An informed and transparent process

Nobody likes to receive a parking ticket but our advice is never to ignore it. You should either pay if it has been issued fairly or appeal if you feel it hasn’t.

Unfortunately, there have been a few cases recently where motorists felt tickets had been issued unfairly but refused to communicate with parking operators or use the appeals process available, sometimes following incorrect advice online. This has resulted in an escalation in charges which is no good for anyone.

We have developed the Know Your Parking Rights website to provide helpful information and advice for motorists who are confused by parking and tickets and are unsure what to do.

Parking data is at the heart of our future transport network

This is truly an exciting time for the sector. Consumer preferences and technology are changing rapidly. The parking sector needs to be responsive to such needs. Smarter parking technology is already delivering benefits to towns and cities worldwide, for businesses, road users and local municipalities. As a not-for-profit association, we work closely with members and stakeholders to inform and encourage this innovation and move us towards a truly mobile society where everyone benefits.

It’s clear we live in a digital world and our actions create ever-increasing stores of data. The appropriate use of this data is transforming our day-to-day lives.

Key components of our future transport network will be underpinned by parking data, which will enable connected and autonomous vehicles and consumers to search, book and pay for parking quickly and easily, reducing congestion and harmful emissions and getting people where they need to go. The opportunities are immense and we are leading the charge on its appropriate use to make parking smarter and a better experience for all. Raising standards is what we are about.

The BPA is the leading authority for parking with 50 years’ experience. As a not-for-profit organisation, we promote the sector by advancing knowledge, raising standards and professionalism. Parking is a dynamic sector and it’s changing more rapidly now than at any other period during our 50-year history. We have always placed the consumer at the heart of our thinking and will continue to provide strong leadership in the sector, working closely with government and others to achieve excellence in parking for all.

Read the article on the New Statesman website

 

 

 

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