Monday, 3 January 2011

Pickles and Hammond save the world

Tonight I will rest easy in my bed, secure in the knowledge that Eric and Philip (assisted by the mighty Greg Clark) are allowing Local Authorities to attract shoppers by setting competitive local parking charges, and allowing developers to provide as many car parking spaces as they want. They tell us that this will bring an end to drivers being unfairly penalised, over-zealous parking enforcement, and unsightly parking congestion. They also seem to think that it will improve the environment by encouraging people to drive into town centres instead of shopping out-of-town.

So, whoopeee!

They are spinning this as the end of the war on the motorist ("Today the Government is calling off Whitehall's war on the motorist".... says Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles. "This is a key step in ending the war on the motorist" says Transport Secretary Philip Hammond).

The spin is the most appalling nonsense, but presumably they think somebody out there is daft enough to swallow it. The reality (at least as parking charges go) is rather mundane.

This is the actual change made to the Planning guidelines on parking charges...

As part of an overall approach on parking, covering both the local transport plan and development plan, local authorities should adopt on-street measures to complement land use policies. Car parking charges should also be used to encourage the use of alternative modes. The RTS should set out the context for parking controls and charges by each local authority. Within this context, local authorities should set out appropriate levels and charges for parking which do not undermine the vitality of other town centres. Controls over public parking (both on-street parking and in car parks) need to be backed up by adequate enforcement measures.
As part of an overall approach on parking, covering both the local transport plan and development plan, local authorities should adopt on-street measures to complement land use policies. Local authorities should set out appropriate levels and charges for parking which do not undermine the vitality of town centres. Parking enforcement should be proportionate

It also seems that parking enforcement need no longer be "adequate". In future it will be "proportionate", whatever that means.

If the political ambition of Pickles and Hammond is to go down in history as the government ministers that removed a couple of irrelevant sentences from section 13 of a 25-part document on planning guidance, then lets hope their ambition is realised.

Meanwhile these are still decisions for local authorities. The planning guidelines still say that local authorities should:
  • use parking policies, alongside other planning and transport measures, to promote sustainable transport choices and reduce reliance on the car for work and other journeys
  • give priority to people over ease of traffic movement and plan to provide more road space to pedestrians, cyclists and public transport in town centres, local neighbourhoods and other areas with a mixture of land uses
Existing guidelines from the Department for Transport on local authority parking (in place since 2008) say this....

The setting of charges for parking on-street or off-street in designated areas is a matter for the [local] authority...

Parking charges and penalty charges should be proportionate, so authorities should not set them at unreasonable levels...

Authorities should never use parking charges just to raise revenue or as a local tax...

When setting charges, authorities should consider the following factors:
  • parking charges can help to curb unnecessary car use where there is adequate public transport or walking or cycling are realistic alternatives, for example, in town centres...
  • charges should be set at levels that encourage compliance with parking restrictions
  • charges can reflect the value of kerb-space...
  • if on-street charges are set too low, they could attract higher levels of traffic than are desirable
Of course it could be that the government anticipates that local authorities are about to increase parking charges to cover some of their funding shortfall, and they are trying to ensure that their own hands are clean.

If that's not the reason, then apparently three government ministers think there is so little to worry about that they can spend their time tweaking a document to make it clear that local authorities have the freedom to do something that they can do anyway.

Maybe that should be reassuring - but somehow it isn't.


Derek Tickles said...

Spot on! Glad there are others unearthing this nonsense and folly.

Keep up the good work

townmouse said...

When did you ever see loads of empty parking spaces in a town centre on (say) a Saturday afternoon? It's not really parking charges that limit the ability to drive into town. So unless the government is magically planning to make cars smaller, or is willing to knock down loads of buildings to provide more parking (the average big box store in the US with adequate parking for all its possible customers takes up 12 acres) nothing is going to change except a bit less revenue for local authorities...