9 TRAFFIC REGULATION ORDERS
197. Councils create parking restrictions and designate parking places by means of Traffic Regulation Orders, known in London as Traffic Management Orders. Local authorities are obliged to follow a process called ’Procedure Regulations’ before creating parking controls. This process involves consultation with local representatives, advertising the proposals, considering objections and making any changes as a result, holding any necessary inquiries, and then making a Traffic Regulation Order which must be advertised before implementation.
Checking Traffic Regulation Orders before taking on civil enforcement
198. Before adopting civil parking enforcement powers local councils must update and consolidate all their Traffic Regulation Orders. This ensures that these are legal and correct. In practice there appear to be inadequate checks that authorities fulfil this requirement.
199. The reports of the Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales contain repeated criticisms of local authorities for failing to discharge this responsibility adequately. The submission we received from the National Parking Adjudication Service states:
200. The Department for Transport told us that it did not have "the resources to go and check every sign in every authority", but that conversations take place with the local police and Government Office on these matters. This sounds like an overly casual approach. The fact that the Chief Parking Adjudicator has found anomalies suggests that it is ineffective.
201. The state of Traffic Regulation Orders varies widely throughout the country. The Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales is concerned, rightly, that some local authorities have failed to consolidate their Traffic Regulation Orders. This matters because the officials of the council need to have a clear legal basis for their traffic management work, and the public too needs to be able to see and understand the rules in a simple and straightforward text. The present position is most unsatisfactory, and those local authorities who are guilty of this maladministration need to remedy the position without delay. We expect to see prompt improvements reflected in future reports of the Chief Parking Adjudicator.
202. The Department for Transport appears not to regulate the state of Traffic Regulation Orders and their application systematically. We accept that the Department cannot be responsible for all Orders and signs throughout the country on a daily basis. But in a case where serious deficiencies are drawn to its attention we do expect the Department to be alert and to take vigorous action to ensure that corrections are made. The Department appears to have effectively ignored the concerns of the Chief Parking Adjudicator about Traffic Regulation Orders.
203. The Department must get much more actively involved in verifying that local authorities have compliant Traffic Regulation Orders before transferring enforcement powers to them from the police. The Department has a duty to be satisfied that the Traffic Regulation Orders and signage are adequate before approving schemes for implementation. It needs to discharge this duty properly. The foundation for a professional civil parking enforcement system, and its development into a force which commands the respect of the majority of road users, is attention to detail in sound administration. This is not ’headline grabbing’ work, but it is essential. The Department has a crucial role here which it needs to discharge properly.
Accurate and legal Traffic Regulation Orders
204. Civil parking enforcement will not be considered legitimate and accountable by the public if the Traffic Regulation Orders underpinning the regime are found to be inaccurate or illegal. Yet at least three per cent of appeals allowed by the National Parking Adjudication Service for England and Wales each year are due to drafting flaws in the relevant Traffic Regulation Orders. The Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales notes that "These outcomes are naturally very dispiriting for the parking attendants and back-office staff who have carried out their jobs in the process in a perfectly satisfactory manner."
205. Alarmingly, we heard evidence from the Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales that councils often fail to act on instructions from the Adjudication Service to correct Traffic Regulation Orders, or associated signs and lines, to achieve compliance. She illustrated the point:
Publicising Traffic Regulation Orders
207. Having ensured that the Orders are accurate and compliant it is the responsibility of the council to communicate effectively to the public precisely what Traffic Regulation Orders are in force. This is important to the transparency of civil parking enforcement regimes and will also help in the objective of increasing compliance with the regulations.
208. Local authorities should therefore take pains to explain the objectives of their Traffic Regulation Orders and the reasons why the Orders are in force. We were told however that performance in this regard is patchy, standards need to be raised, and practice differs throughout the country. The Chief Parking Adjudicator for England and Wales told us that:
209. Details of Traffic Regulation Orders in force, and their purposes, must be routinely available on all local authority websites and in written form. The Department for Transport needs to do more to encourage and support local authorities in making this information more widely available. The Department must set out how its forthcoming statutory guidance will ensure that Traffic Regulation Orders receive sufficient publicity.
Reviewing Traffic Regulation Orders
210. Attention to Traffic Regulation Orders should not stop once they are in place. Ensuring that the Orders remain relevant is an on-going responsibility. The Institution of Highways and Transportation told us that many parking restrictions are up to 40 years old and might no longer be relevant to contemporary community and traffic needs. Authorities need to monitor use of their parking spaces to check that the restrictions are appropriate and having the intended effect. Provision must allow for a range of users and uses throughout the day. Local authorities should be prepared to update Traffic Regulation Orders in the light of changing patterns of demand.
211. Several witnesses called for a full audit of Traffic Regulation Orders, signs and lines at regular intervals. The British Parking Association, called for annual audits; but some local authorities considered that this would be too onerous.
212. Traffic Regulation Orders need to be properly maintained. We had evidence that this was not so. There are no consistent arrangements to review the appropriateness and effectiveness of Traffic Regulation Orders. This is not acceptable. Local authorities which have Orders that are deficient now need to take remedial action without delay. Thereafter, authorities should check the Orders annually and certify in the annual parking report that they are fit for purpose. Where significant changes in the locality are taking place, or where performance needs to be raised, action to amend the Orders should not be overlooked. Reviews should also cover the parking infrastructure of signs and lines which notify the public about the requirements of each Order.
SIGNS AND LINES
213. Compliance with traffic regulations is much more likely if these are presented clearly on the streets. The clarity and accuracy of signs and lines is critical. On-street parking controls must be indicated with approved signs and markings according to Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions (TSRGD) guidance. Signs for restrictions not covered by the Traffic Signs Regulations require authorisation from the Secretary of State.
214. The Institution of Highways and Transportation suggested that the TSRGD guidance leads to complex signs which are unhelpful to drivers.Several other organisations indicated that signs and lines are often not well understood by the public. The Department for Transport acknowledged that confusion reigns telling us that "There are too many examples of signs that are so incomprehensible or confusing that drivers find it difficult to comply with them because they simply do not understand the restrictions." Two years ago TRL produced a report for the Department for Transport on how to improve signing. No action has been taken however to implement the recommendations.
215. Signs and lines must be legally compliant, well-maintained and regularly checked. A revision of signage regulations is long overdue. Two years ago the Department for Transport commissioned the Transport Research Laboratory (TRL) to report on how signage could be improved. But no action appears to have been taken. This is poor, and when the Government replies to this report we wish to be told why there has been no action so far.
216. The Department needs to produce good practice guidance on signage taking into account the TRL work. Good quality guidance on best practice in signage should be available to the local authority practitioners. The majority of motorists want to obey the rules. The signage should be made clear, and as well sited as possible, to enable them to do so.
Signage in Controlled Parking Zones
217. There are particular problems with signage in Controlled Parking Zones. These Zones must have signs at their entrances and exits to inform drivers about the restrictions. Once within the zone however parking restrictions are indicated only by means of yellow lines, and, where parking places are provided, by white bays. This means that once a driver has found a parking space, the precise rules governing use of that particular space are not normally visible in the immediate vicinity. Martin Wood, the Chief Parking Adjudicator for London, described Controlled Parking Zones as ’archaic’ and illustrated the difficulties:
218. The Department for Transport and the local authorities need to review the use of Controlled Parking Zones. These Zones need to be signed taking full account of the requirement of the motorist for clear and helpful signage at the point of parking. This is not the case at present where the relevant regulations can be out of sight. This leads to confusion and frequently unintended breaches of the rules. Much more signage should be provided within and throughout Controlled Parking Zones, and not just on the boundaries. Drivers must have the best opportunity possible to understand what restrictions are in force before, and as, they park their vehicles. They should not need to walk half a mile to find the regulations. In the Government’s response to this report, the Department should confirm that it will cover the treatment of Controlled Parking Zones in its forthcoming guidance.