Find out about policies
First, find out what local parking policies are. Confusingly in areas with district and county councils parking responsibilities are split, while in London red routes are controlled by Transport for London. Where red route restrictions have been introduced elsewhere, they remain the responsibility of the local authority (borough). Depending on what aspect of parking you wish to influence, there are three different things to look out for:
- the Local Transport Plan sets out on-street parking policies but in London, policies are set out in the Mayor’s Transport strategy with more local policies in boroughs own Parking & Enforcement Plans
- in two-tier areas outside London, the district council is in charge of enforcement as well as running public off-street car parks so may have its own parking strategy to cover these
- local plans (formerly core development strategies) set out parking policies in relation to spaces in new developments and controls over the creation of new off-street car parks
As noted above, where there is a risk people might travel to a neighbouring town or alternative destination, it’s worth comparing their parking policies, particularly in terms of pricing.
Identify needs and problems
Identify parking usage, perceived needs and problems in your area. A simple way to do this may be to include a couple of questions on parking in a village or community survey. You could consider asking people if they find parking can be a nuisance or danger locally and if so where. You could also ask where they think there are insufficient parking spaces.
Having data on parking use can be helpful too. Do check with your local authorities to see if they have any or you could do your own survey of occupancy at different times of the day (such as rush hour, midday and evening) and days of the week - see the finding partners and information section. You may want to know how many cars belong to residents and how many don’t, for example people parking on your street while they catch a train or work nearby. There isn’t an easy way to do this other than compare parking levels at different times of day.
There may be indirect problems from badly designed parking restrictions, such as signage clutter or people driving round who are unclear where they can park. These are worth considering too and don’t forget that markings like yellow lines have an ongoing maintenance requirement.
Finally don’t forget to see if you can find out how things have been changing over time and if any developments are likely in the future that could change things further. A new school or office park, for example, could have a significant impact on your area.
Look into enforcement
Find out about on-street parking enforcement in your local area - has it been decriminalised? Where this has happened parking is no longer the responsibility of the police and traffic wardens. Instead it is carried out on behalf of your local authority by Civil Enforcement Officers or CCTV who can issue Penalty Charge Notices. Where this has happened, police do retain powers to issue Fixed Penalty Notices for obstructive parking. A big advantage of Civil Parking Enforcement, as it is officially known, is that revenue from penalties is kept by local authorities and can be used to cover the cost of enforcement.
About 90% of authorities have now Civil Parking Enforcement in at least some of their areas. A map of areas and further guidance is available from the Department for Transport. You should also find out if your area has been designated as a ‘Special Enforcement Area’, which is only possible if it has Civil Parking Enforcement. This gives powers to tackle double parking and parking next to dropped kerbs and raised tables (where the road has been raised to kerb height), where it could obstruct people on foot or in wheelchairs from getting about. It is easy for your local authority to apply to the Government to gain these extra powers to tackle anti-social parking.
Come up with some options
Work out some options that you can put forward. Even if there is a particular option you want to propose, it’s always good to set out a range of ideas with their advantages and disadvantages that you can seek feedback on. That way you can engage other people better, which is particularly important for a controversial subject. Depending on your local issues the following could be considered:
- introduce or increase restrictions or change layouts where parking is causing a problem to road users
- change and/or simplify restrictions to reduce signage clutter
- make better use of space, for example change charging or maximum stays to prioritise short-term parking in more accessible locations, such as near stations and town centres
- find underused sites (such as a pub car park during the day where the owner consents) to take pressure off parking spaces and improve access and signing to them
- and as a last resort, increase parking spaces
Why should increasing parking be the last resort? With so many short trips being made by car that could easily be made by other means, there is a lot of scope to free up parking spaces. Even where new developments and an increase in population are proposed, there is still usually enough potential to make better use of existing parking rather than build more. And where there is excessive parking, it is harder to encourage people to use other ways to get about.