DECRIMINALISED PARKING

Introduced by Rab Smith, Policy & Programmes Manager, Engineering Services, B&NES on 11 May 1999

Road traffic in Bath causes pollution, congestion, safety and environmental problems. On-street parking is subject to the Road Traffic Regulations Act 1984 which provides for two enforcement agencies _ the Police to enforce parking on yellow lines (which is a criminal offence), parking on pavements and double parking, and Local Authority wardens to enforce parking in permitted areas _ the Card scheme in Bath. The Police give low priority to enforcement of this Act, but the Police Wardens are also used to control traffic on occasions.

Another Act, for London only, in 1991 transferred to Local Authorities the police's powers and made the offences a civil rather than a criminal matter. Subsequently, the Government have extended this Act to apply to the rest of the country and encouraged Local Authorities to apply for permission to designate Special Parking Areas or Controlled Parking Areas i.e. to decriminalise parking.

The Local Authority have to apply to the Home Office and demonstrate that they have:

- a parking strategy for the whole area

- reviewed traffic orders (which authorise yellow lines, signs, road closures and restrictions etc.) to bring them up-to-date for current conditions

- to demonstrate their enforcement procedures

- to show that the proposed system will be self-financing

- to show that they will have sufficient wardens and a suitable removal system for illegally parked vehicles

- a satisfactory payment system for fines and an appeals system (which is two-stage; first to the local authority and then to the national Independent Adjudication Service)

-to show they have consulted the Police, Highways Authority, the local community, (including the disabled) and neighbouring local authorities.

- installed a satisfactory monitoring and statistical reporting system.

These requirements explain why setting up these Parking Areas cost many tens of thousands of pounds and takes many months.

The advantage to the local authority is that, once the running costs for salaries, uniforms, computers, managers etc., have been paid, the balance belongs to the local authority, not the Treasury (as at present), but is ring-fenced for expenditure on transport improvements.

The penalty for infringement of the regulations will be a fine or towing away. Clamping has not been considered as it just locks the vehicle in the wrong place.

The effects of the scheme are predicted to be improved traffic flow; better turn-over of street parking spaces; increased income from legitimate parking areas; net income to the council of £100 - £400,000 / yr; freeing of Police for more serious crime investigation.

In Winchester, which introduced decriminalised parking in May 1996 for the whole city, they have had 3.9% more cars off the streets; 13.6% more parking for over 3 hours in car parks; 88.5% of penalties paid at 50% discount within 14 days; 400 appeals / month (75% of which were allowed by the local authority), and an increased use of Park & Ride sites.

During the discussion it was stated that the wardens would not be paid according to the number of tickets they issued. There would be wardens for the whole B&NES area. There are 11 police wardens in Bath now enforcing 195 miles of yellow line restrictions (there used to be 28 before Avon CC cuts). The parking strategy requires Residents Parking areas to be installed in areas around the City centre to prevent more commuters using these streets for free parking and this is planned.

The local authority's need now is to get funding, which may be on a Private Finance Initiative, to allow introduction of decriminalised parking as soon after April 2000 as possible.

Don Lovell