12 PARKING ACCESSIBILITY
256. Parking on the pavement is likely to cause a grave danger to pedestrians. In particular, it creates hazards for people with disabilities and visual impairments, older people, and those with prams or pushchairs. It is also unsightly and reduces the tight management of the streets which is a key to preserving a high quality street environment.
257. In London it is an offence to park on a pavement unless signs indicate that it is specifically permitted. Throughout the rest of the country there is no national law that bans parking by cars and small vehicles on the pavement. A council wishing to ban pavement parking in a specific area can use Traffic Regulation Orders to this effect.
258. ’Living Streets’ pointed out that vehicles parked on the pavements are a particular obstacle to achieving an accessible transport system:
260. A ban on pavement parking would benefit many people, including people with disabilities, yet the Department has shied away from recommending enforcement because of the scale of the problem. Mr Mike Talbot of the Department for Transport told us that the Department had "looked at this from time to time and the problem has always been that if you define no parking on the footway or the verge in all other circumstances except where signed, it would not be enforced."
261. We accept that the problem of vehicles obstructing footpaths country-wide is a large one and a major effort would be required to enforce the law. But the ’do- nothing’ response of the Department is no longer a credible option. To periodically examine what is widely accepted as a problem and then fail to take any positive measures is not the quality of response that the general public has a right to expect from the Department. Those local authorities that have adopted civil enforcement powers would be required to enforce a ban on pavement parking as they carried out their other enforcement duties. The police too should be involved in enforcement of this aspect of street management. With clear signage and after a period of intense enforcement, we expect that a pavement parking ban would become self-enforcing as the public become familiar with, and accept, the new rules.
262. The Government must grip the problem of pavement parking once and for all and ensure that it is outlawed throughout the country, and not just in London. Councils should have the option of an ’opt-out’ of a national pavement parking ban where this is vital, rather than relying on the use of individual Traffic Regulation Orders on specific streets and local Acts to impose a ban. That such an initiative will initially require additional resources to enforce is no excuse for allowing some pavements to continue to be swamped by cars and made inaccessible to large numbers of pedestrians.
263. Road safety is a central objective of parking regulations and enforcement. Illegal parking in unsuitable places can present a serious risk to road safety. Parking on pedestrian crossings, ’zig-zag’ lines, and outside school and hospital entrances, directly compromises the safety of some of the most vulnerable road users. Parking at corners, junctions and bus stops can similarly cause havoc and compromise public safety. Such parking contraventions are extremely serious and any enforcement regime needs to address them firmly. Parking strategies and enforcement operations must prioritise the safety of all road users.
264. ’Living Streets’ sees the impact of parking on road safety in the broader context of efforts to join up transport, planning, health, economic development and community strategy. The organisation suggests that, by adopting sound parking policies and good enforcement, neighbourhoods will be more attractive for walking and cycling. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment believes that, while people may want to park their cars directly outside their homes, they would generally be willing to make compromises when other benefits such as safe playing areas for children, and the provision of shops, services and public transport links in walking distance, are available.
265. Our objective must be to enhance the overall quality of our streets. Viewing parking as an important tool to achieve this - which includes both safety and environmental aspects - will help increase the chances of success. This is not a question of imposing arbitrary rules on neighbourhoods. The benefits to all need to be spelled out, and then followed through with sound and consistent enforcement policies. Without real leadership from the Department and commitment from local authorities, this will not be achieved. We need a more active and coordinated approach from the Department on this issue than we have detected to date. A ’zero tolerance’ approach must be adopted towards those who through thoughtlessness or wilfulness seek to reduce the quality of the street environment.
’Blue Badge’ scheme
266. The ’Blue Badge’ scheme provides a range of parking benefits for disabled people with severe walking difficulties, registered blind people, and people with severe upper limb disabilities who travel either as drivers or as passengers. The scheme operates throughout the UK and is administered by local authorities. The concessions apply only to on-street parking and include free use of parking meters and pay-and-display bays. Badge-holders may also be exempt from limits on parking times and can park for up to three hours on yellow lines (except where there is a ban on loading or unloading or other restrictions). Misuse of the ’Blue Badge’ by any non-disabled person is an offence. The maximum penalty if someone is convicted is £1,000 plus any additional penalty for the related parking offence.
267. There is a serious problem with abuse of the ’Blue Badge’ scheme in many areas. Liverpool City Council has recently undertaken a joint operation involving the council and the police to tackle abuse of the ’Blue Badge’ scheme. The operation recovered over a thousand misused badges in 14 months. The council also took part in a pilot project with the Audit Commission National Fraud Initiative in 2004/5 to tackle the continued use of ’Blue Badges’ which belonged to deceased people but were still in circulation. Through a comparison of database information, the council identified a widespread problem. Concerted effort and joint operations, as in this case, can successfully tackle abuse of the ’Blue Badge’ scheme.
268. Powers to inspect ’Blue Badges’ were included in the Traffic Management Act 2004. There is no national database of ’Blue Badge’ holders however which makes enforcement difficult. Furthermore, the Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee (DPTAC) told us that because the ’Blue Badge’ scheme applies to on-street parking only, the powers of inspection are also limited to on-street parking. In practice however many off-street car parks provide some spaces for ’Blue Badge’ holders and DPTAC called for the inspection powers to be extended, and a Code of Practice to be issued to private operators to reduce misuse.
269. There is widespread misuse of the ’Blue Badge’ scheme which provides a range of parking benefits for people with certain disabilities. We congratulate those, including Liverpool City Council, whose efforts have revealed this abuse. The ’Blue Badge’ scheme is a valuable initiative which must be preserved. But it must continue on a much sounder administrative footing. A national database of ’Blue Badge’ holders would assist with delivering concessions, would enable proper enforcement of the scheme, and reduce the misuse of ’Blue Badges’. We recommend that the Department establish a national database of ’Blue Badge’ holders. In its reply to this report the Department should indicate what assessment it has made of the cost of providing such a database.
Parking space: capacity and demand
270. The RAC Foundation predicts that car ownership could increase by 45 per cent by 2030. If car ownership continues to rise, parking space will fall increasingly short of demand.
271. There is currently a great deal of competition for the parking space available in many towns and cities. The Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea describes the pressure on residents’ parking space as ’immense’. This problem is common in many city council areas: 17 per cent of people in England find it difficult to park outside their home. The RAC Foundation found that 29 per cent of motorists had given up their journeys and gone home on at least one occasion because they had been unable to find a parking space. Parking space problems can cause community problems too. A survey of British households found that parking was the single most frequent cause of disputes between neighbours.
Residents’ permit schemes
272. Properly enforced residents’ permit schemes can help to alleviate a mismatch between supply and demand. We heard that some innovative measures can also be successful, for example parking schemes which give preference to people in car share clubs. Mr Mike Link of the Institution for Highways and Transportation listed other examples:
274. We were astonished that less than half of available garages in the UK are used to park vehicles overnight. Discounting cars which are driven away from home at night and are parked legitimately elsewhere, many garages are clearly not being used for their proper purpose. Using garages would relieve on-street space pressures in local communities.
275. It will not be possible in all residential areas to meet the demand for parking. In these circumstances, resident permit schemes and waiting lists are important techniques local authorities can use to ration on-street parking and these should be pursued vigorously where there is a mismatch between capacity and demand. We also welcome the use of more innovative demand measures such as allowing car clubs priority parking.
PLANNING POLICY GUIDANCE
276. Provision of parking capacity is determined by Planning Policy Guidance issued by the Department for Communities and Local Government. The Government’s guidance on parking provision is set out in PPG 13 ’Transport’, which is supplemented by specific guidance in relation to parking provision in housing developments in PPG 3 ’Housing’. The Department for Transport explained the objective of the guidance:
278. Research by Transport Research Laboratory in 1993 found that peoples’ determination to own cars seems to outweigh all other considerations, including the difficulty of parking. Even in areas where parking proved most difficult, the indications were that people still intended to buy more cars. Indeed, since the time of the research the number of private cars licensed in Great Britain has increased from 20,102,000 in 1993 to 25,754,000 in 2004. The PPG 3 Implementation Study, ’Delivering Planning Policy for Housing’, identified that PPG 3’s approach to car parking was targeting car ownership, when it ought to target car usage, if sustainable transport and accessibility were the objectives.
279. The Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment suggests that the policies of the Department for Transport and the Department for Communities and Local Government need to tie more closely together if either are to succeed. The Department for Transport told us that the Government is currently reviewing its policy on planning for residential car parking. In December 2005 a draft revised version of PPG 3 was published. This proposes a more flexible, evidence-based approach to parking levels. PPG 13 was last updated in 2001.
280. We did not receive sufficient evidence to make specific recommendations about planning policies in relation to parking provision. Controlling the overall provision of parking spaces is however clearly an important component of traffic management and land-use policy. It is also a tool in meeting Departmental aims to promote sustainable transport and to reduce reliance on the private car, and it must be given full weight by the Government in its overall transport policy. The Department for Transport should consider whether it is time for the Government to evaluate the success of the guidance on parking provision (contained in document PPG 13) and to assess how well it has been implemented in practice.
Parking provision for ’Blue Badge’ holders
281. Overall supply of on-street and off-street parking capacity determines the accessibility of any town or city centre for disabled people reliant on car use. The Disabled Persons Transport Advisory Committee told us: