Monday Musing: Testing the temperature of parking as Election fever sets in

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Election Fever is with us. Coalition; Confidence and Supply Agreements, so called hung Parliaments, minority Government - all phrases that have been banded about in recent times and all relevant in varying degrees. Just what style and flavour of Government will we see emerging in the coming days and weeks?

The most stable Coalition the UK has seen for a very long time has finished as Parliament ended its fixed five year term at the end of March. All accompanied with a flurry of small but significant changes in law to alter the way Government expected parking to be managed in England in the future. And Mr Pickles launched another Discussion Paper on parking in the dying hours of Parliament! So the heat is still on…

Mandatory grace periods are in; CCTV, except in defined circumstances is out. Some great headlines. But will in really make a difference? Most local Councils have operated Grace Periods for decades and most if not all of the use of CCTV for parking enforcement occurs at the locations where it is allowed to continue. Perhaps it’s more a case of rising damp?

The BPA continues to call for a clarification of the law and believe restrictions in the use of new technologies and management methods are hampering councils’ ability to better manage off-street car parks by ensuring the best use of spaces, improving access for disabled people, introducing user-friendly payment options and reducing operating costs. Our next Government should take the first opportunity they have to make the law on the use of new technology in off-street parking clearer in order to allow councils to do what they believe is best for their high streets.

Hot on the heels of being given responsibility for Government policy on all off-street parking, the Department for Communities has issued what it calls a Discussion Paper and Call for Evidence on two core issues, perceived unfair practices in the management of parking on private land and anecdotally the seeming inability to use cash to pay for parking in local authority car parks.

Two important words here in the Discussion Paper: anecdotal and evidence.  Most recent parking law has been based upon Anecdotes, Niceties, Posturing and Rhetoric (or ANPR for short) with little or no real evidence and let’s hope we are now going to get some serious discussion and research to understand what is really going on with some genuine and credible evidence to back up any proposals.

We have a good working relationship with DCLG officials and we have been briefing them for a good while now about how and why parking needs to be and is managed. It’s good therefore to see this paper recognising that “appropriate parking control is vital to ensure that parking facilities remain accessible and provide value for money, both for the landowners providing access to their property, and for the drivers accessing the land”. Moreover it claims “It is Government’s responsibility to strike the right balance between protecting the right of land owners to control the use of their land and benefit fairly from it, and protecting drivers and shoppers from unscrupulous practices”. They’ve never said that before! Are we really about to get some proper regulation instead of the complex legal muddle which is out there now?

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