Before I begin, let me state that it is an election year in the U.K., and we are now in the last 100 days period. This means that politicians from all sides of the political spectrum are no doubt feeling the pressure to announce crowd-pleasing initiatives.

Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government Eric Pickles has become known as the unofficial parking sheriff. In the last two weeks alone, he has successfully promoted two contradictory, in my opinion, policies that are close to his heart:

  • To move responsibility for off-street parking from the Department for Transport to the Department for Communities and Local Government. (i.e. local government in charge and not national government).
  • To give drivers an extra 10 minutes to avoid parking fines ( i.e. national government overruling individual local municipalities’ guidelines on fines).

But at what cost to the parking industry? Is the cry being heard from many parking operators and municipalities across the land? Issues that arise are:

  • Many local municipalities already apply grace periods on permitted parking bays. Allowing municipalities to use their discretion on grace periods can actually help local shops because in areas of high demand, traders want faster turnover.
  • Rather than ease congestion, there will now be more cars on the road, circling town looking for spaces when they could be parked with their owners off doing what they set out to do in the first place.
  • Pickles explained why he backed the new policy by saying, “The government’s new measures, carried though as part of the Deregulation Bill, will lead to a better way of enforcing parking. The bill’s proposals are set to reduce the burden on business with less regulation.” However, they appear to be doing quite the opposite. e.g. municipalities wishing to make use of CCTV to enforce no-parking zones will not legally be permitted to do this. Municipalities should be allowed to look at each area individually when reviewing restrictions.
  • The rules will also apply to on-street metered areas (including short-stay parking). Take, for instance, the City of London where parking is £4 per hour. The 10-minute grace period means it will now be £4 per 70 minutes, or 5.7p per minute (currently 6.6p per minute.

I shall leave the last word to a Road Traffic Law blog:

“The announcement once again trots out the nonsense phrase ‘war on motorists’, if it is a war then clearly the motorists have been winning for quite some time. Parking is never free the only question is who pays, with rhetoric that talks of the ‘war on motorists’ those who end up paying unfairly are those who do not have cars (the general tax payer). In other words talk of a ‘war on motorists’ could easily be described as a ‘subsidy for motorists’ or ‘a war on non motorists.’”