In attendance for this item were:
Worcestershire County Council:
Nigel Hudson, Head of Strategic Infrastructure and Economy
Sarah Gilmour, Intelligent Transport Systems Manager
Gary Williams, Principal Traffic Management Engineer
Alan Amos, Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Highways
Worcester City Council:
Ashley Snookes, responsible for civil parking enforcement
The Head of Strategic Infrastructure and Economy drew the Panel’s attention to Appendix 2 of the agenda report which summarised the current situation, emerging schemes, and issues and challenges. During the discussion, the following main points were raised:
· The Intelligent Transport Systems Manager emphasised that the main purpose of the policy was to improve the quality of life of Worcestershire residents.
· She went on to outline the key eligibility criteria for setting up a residents parking scheme as set out in the County Council’s current policy.
· It was confirmed that there were currently schemes in each district council area.
· Members were informed that it was the ‘Worcestershire way’ to introduce schemes with the intention of benefitting residents. Other Local Authorities had introduced schemes to encourage residents to use public transport. This had not yet been the case in Worcestershire.
· A Member suggested that a main concern for residents close to town and city centres was commuter parking, which restricted residents’ ability to park close to their homes. He suggested that if time restrictions could be imposed on non-residents this would be helpful, ie non-residents not being allowed to park between 12 and 1pm. In response, the Principal Traffic Management Engineer confirmed that schemes such as this were in operation in the County and gave the example of St Georges Square, Worcester, a scheme which had been agreed with the local residents.
· It was suggested that the bigger the zone covered by a scheme, the less knock-on effect there would be to surrounding streets. The need for legitimate short-term parking for commuters was acknowledged and it was suggested that the charge for this should be the same as for off-street parking, to avoid incentivising on-street parking. The Head of Strategic Infrastructure and Economy reminded the Panel that to date the County Council had not taken a town/city-wide approach, but instead had reacted to local issues to keep the traffic flowing.
· In response to a question about how other Local Authorities approached residents parking schemes, Members were informed that, at the time that the original policy was devised, officers had written to all Local Authorities in England and Wales to ask how they organised residents parking schemes. The responses had been very diverse, with authorities taking very different approaches.
· Members were reminded that a decision to charge for on-street parking would require investment in new equipment.
· A Member informed the Panel of a situation in his division where commuters were parking in residential streets near the local railway station, resulting in a lack of space for local residents. As a solution, parking restrictions had been put in place for half an hour in the middle of the day to discourage those using the railway from parking in residential areas. He reported that this scheme had worked well.
· Members were reminded that, although the County Council was responsible for setting up schemes, the District Councils were responsible for enforcement. Currently, at least one District Council did not undertake any enforcement.
· A Member suggested that investment in technology could be helpful, including sensors to inform drivers where available parking spaces were situated.
· It was suggested that even in one street, some residents could be happy with a scheme, whereas others may object. The Principal Traffic Management Engineer reminded the Panel that it was important to be flexible and remember that the team was delivering a service to members of the public. If the type of housing in a road changed ie from terraced to semi-detached, it was legitimate to change the nature of the parking scheme.
· It was confirmed that garages were no longer counted as off-street parking, although driveways were. Concern was expressed about areas where many families had two cars but would not be eligible for a residents parking scheme if houses had driveways.
· The Enforcement Officer from Worcester City Council informed the Panel that the City Council had recently invested in new equipment to carry out enforcement. The team was made up of 11 officers to cover seven days per week and was currently reviewing shift patterns to facilitate coverage of a broader range of hours, including evenings and weekends. However, Members were reminded that the City Council was subject to budget constraints and Enforcement Officers also covered environmental enforcement.
· In response to a question from a Member of the Panel, it was confirmed that, overall in Worcester City, parking enforcement was self-financing. However, this was not the case for all district councils. For example, Redditch BC did not own any car parks and therefore only benefitted from on-street parking. Sufficient volume of car park users was needed for parking enforcement to pay for itself.
· It was suggested that, if residents were paying for a permit, but were aware that parking restrictions were not being enforced, there was potential for conflict.
· A Member representing a division in Worcester confirmed that he felt parking enforcement in Worcester was good. He went on to suggest that parking could be part of a wider policy covering congestion and air pollution. It may also be helpful to look at the development of multi-storey car parks in the city centre and further restrictions on on-street parking.
· The Intelligent Transport Systems Manager confirmed that challenges included staff resources, enforcement and Consolidation Orders (legal documents which underpinned all on-street restrictions and allowed them to be enforced).
· A Member of the Panel asked whether figures were available for the cost of each residents parking scheme and whether this information was published. In response, Members were told that it was very difficult to confirm a figure. Costs would include advertising and staff time. The cost of implementation was difficult to quantify accurately due to the nature of the County Council’s contract with Ringway. A Member of the Panel expressed surprise about this as it was important to know the costs of a scheme in order to assess whether it was viable. Councillors also needed these figures in order to inform their conversations with residents.
· A Member asked whether it would be possible to produce one Consolidation Order covering the whole County rather than separate ones for each District Council. Members were reminded that across the County, each District Council had undertaken the decriminalisation of civil parking at different times. Therefore, bespoke schemes were produced and one Consolidation Order was developed for each District, although based on the same template. A Member suggested that it would be easier if all Local Authorities in the County used the same Order. It was acknowledged that, in an ideal world a standardised Order would be good, but getting to this point would have an impact on available resources.
· A Councillor who was not a Member of the Panel reported that in his 20-year experience of residents parking, there were two major problems which required Local Authorities to be more flexible in their approach. Firstly, the majority of concerns about parking came from areas where residents had access to off-street parking. Often residents were concerned about non-residents parking in a way which caused issues relating to congestion, road safety and access to properties. Secondly, most schemes restricted the number of permits to spaces. If this was relaxed, a permit would be no guarantee of a space.
· The current policy of requiring 80% of residential properties responding to a consultation to be in favour of any new scheme was supported and should not be changed.
· In response to a question about the potential development of a parking strategy, it was confirmed that this would need to be a collaboration between the County Council and the District Councils as they each had responsibility for different aspects. Members were reminded that a key part of any parking strategy would be enforcement and there was currently a mixed picture in this regard across the County.
· It was confirmed that the Traffic Management Act currently did not allow residents to report illegal parking via smart phones.
· It was confirmed that a Blue Badge holder would also need a parking permit for a residents scheme.
· In response to a question from the Chairman of the Panel, it was confirmed that, in general and based on anecdotal evidence, residents parking schemes were working well.
The Chairman highlighted the following points from the discussion:
· The potential for charging non-residents for on street parking should be considered.
· Further consideration should be given to how to link parking schemes to enforcement.
· The use of technology to identify where parking spaces were available should be explored.
· Currently, most zonal parking schemes were specific to one street or a small area. It may be time to look at whether this remained the best approach.
· Should the County Council’s Residents Parking Scheme Policy be reviewed?
· When developing a new scheme, a cost forecast should be included.
· It may be appropriate to review the criteria in the current policy which requires less than 50% of affected residences to have a facility to park off the road.
· Consideration should be given to how to undertake a strategy review, given the different approaches taken in different parts of the County.
· The Council should lobby for a change in legislation to allow innovation in how the public could report illegal parking, eg via mobile phones.
The following further points were made:
· Concern had been expressed to the Chairman by a local Member about the parking situation in residential areas near to Worcestershire Royal Hospital. Members were informed that restricting parking in the middle of the day had been suggested but had received a mixed response from residents. There was a similar situation in St Johns, Worcester with overspill parking from the University of Worcester. A restriction in the middle of the day had alienated some residents. It was suggested that there could be a restriction with an exemption for residents.
· Prior to the meeting, comments had been received from a County Councillor who was not a Member of the Panel. In summary, the comments related to concerns expressed by residents of three streets in Kidderminster which were used for parking by non-residents attending popular local amenities. The local Member suggested that residents-only parking schemes should be an option for these residents. It was suggested that there may be a need to look at a wider zone to avoid displacement to surrounding streets.
The Cabinet Member with Responsibility for Highways was asked whether he had any comments to add. He suggested that the issues around parking were as important as congestion. He also noted wider issues in relation to the role of District Councils and the need for Local Authorities to work together. He went on to highlight the role of District Council planning colleagues in relation to requiring developers to provide more off-street parking, referring to an application to be considered by Worcester City Council’s Planning Committee which may be approved in the knowledge that it would increase parking problems in the local area. There was a need to be flexible and imaginative. He suggested that it may be too early to consider reviewing the Residents Parking Schemes Policy as the current policy had only been in operation since January 2018.