News-Free parking

‘Free’ supermarket carparks are high on the list of must-do’s if High Streets are to be revitalised.

So can you park your van close to your stall – and as importantly can your Customers park near the Market? Sorting out a sensible car parking policy is high on the list of ‘things to fix’ for the Councils who won £100,000 each in the DCLG/Portas competition. Parking policies which attract shoppers back from ‘free’ supermarket carparks are high on the list of must-do’s if High Streets are to be revitalised. But car park charging even affects residents who don’t drive so the Councillor lucky enough to be in charge of parking policy is guaranteed a full mailbox.

The basic problem is there are just too many cars concentrated into too few spaces. St. Ives in Cornwall is delightful apart from the lack of parking space at any time, let alone the summer. Three parking spaces sold last year for £160,000 which is a bit steep but not as rich as the single 11ft by 12ft space in London’s Hyde Park Gardens which is up for sale at £300,000. That’s about twice the price of the average house in England and Wales and you don’t even get a roof over it. But I suppose you could live in your car.

Meanwhile Eric Pickles, Conservative Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government has stuck the knife into the efforts of Labour-controlled Nottingham City Council to reduce car congestion caused by Commuters. Their initiative was to levy a ‘workplace parking tax’ on Employers who provide parking for staff. This has proved unpopular with local residents as the £334/space charge is usually passed straight onto workers who not surprisingly park along residential streets instead.

Rather than helping tackle congestion Eric said, ‘ it is clear that the Labour Council…is doing more harm than good, by clogging up the roads and causing parking problems to spread.’

You might think adding extra parking spaces would reduce congestion, but experience suggests otherwise.

At the same time he launched into those Councils who charge residents for allowing them to rent-out their driveways for Commuter parking. This is a growing business in London but because it involves a so-called Change of Use from residential to commercial it requires approval under town planning legislation. You might think adding extra parking spaces would reduce congestion, but experience suggests otherwise. The Department of Transport recently admitted that building new motorways doesn’t reduce traffic congestion but simply encourages more motorists to use the new ‘uncongested’ roads. Providing extra carspaces simply encourages more people to drive into town and does nothing to reduce congestion.

So Nottingham City is now considering on-street parking charges (residents can park for free) with all the associated cost of machines, enforcement staff, Traffic Regulation Orders, signage and roadmarking etc. They could have opted for the CCTV-controlled roadcharging as used in London but it’s far too expensive to implement and the ‘workplace levy’ was seen as an affordable alternative.

Nottingham Tram: Part funded by the ‘workplace levy’ The congestion on Nottingham’s residential streets has been worsened by works for their new Tramway system, part-funded by the levy. Theory says this is the right long-term solution i.e. make public transport cheap and plentiful whilst removing parking spaces – but in the meantime the Council needs to pay for parking enforcement and the capital cost of public transport. The wages of Parking Pataweyo and his enforcement mates can be replaced with the questionable practice of using CCTV cameras but then you get into all the arguments about ‘I didn’t know I’d committed an offence until the letter arrived in the post’ etc . The Traffic Penalty Tribunal (they handle appeals against parking tickets) thinks likewise and recently voiced their concern to the Parliamentary Transport Select Committee. Apparently only 1% of issued penalty notices are ever contested because motorists think it’s a waste of time so just can’t be arsed.

Given that the NHS relies on day treatment centres to reduce costs it seems logical that patients should, at least get free parking.

Eric had something to say about that as well. He accused many Councils of ‘bending the law to fill their coffers with taxpayers’ cash’ – an accusation levelled against CCTV enforcement as well as many NHS Trusts. The latter have come in for a lot of criticism for charging all users of their carparks, not just visitors. Given that the NHS relies on day treatment centres to reduce costs it seems logical that patients should, at least get free parking. Macmillan Cancer Support runs a campaign with that objective. To support them go to http://www.macmillan.org.uk

One way or another we’re all affected by parking policy, even if you don’t drive. Having recently paid through the nose for hospital parking, a £30 CCTV parking fine and a £130 London Congestion Charge fine (don’t lend you car to your daughter) I’m not feeling sympathetic to anyone who complains about being charged £10/day to park their van next to the Market. My suggestion is: Blame the Commuters and tell customers that’s why your prices have gone up.

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