Consultation on Barnet's Draft Parking Policy (October 2014)

Below is the reply made by the Barnet Residents Association to Barnet council's consultation on their draft parking policy. The consultation is currently on the council web site at http://engage.barnet.gov.uk/development-regulatory-services/parking-policy-consultation/consult_view.


In many ways the key issues relating to parking policy have already been settled very sensibly - the adoption of the 85% occupancy target, variable charges and (though not clearly spelt out) varying designation of parking spaces whether long-term, short term, etc. This is a world better than the former rigid system of standard charges and the same designation everywhere, which led to such absurdities as nearly empty car parks or commuters monopolising prime town centre car parking.

We are however conscious that parking is integral to the whole issue of traffic management and its impact on the environment, and here the paper gets into something of a muddle. Addressing pollution or road safety should not be dealt with piecemeal, as in this paper which just addresses parking aspects, but should be dealt with in the round. A consequence of trying to address these issues just through the prism of parking has in our view led to the paper proposing some questionable initiatives simply because of a desire to be seen to be doing something.

ACCIDENT PREVENTION (2.2.2)

The rise in pedestrian casualties is indeed worrying but there is little by way on analysis of the causes, though the paper seeks to argue that parking on footways is a problem in this regard. We need persuading of this. The rather obscure map indicated that the vast majority of accidents are on main roads where there is no or little pavement parking. We suspect the major problems arise more from motorists disregarding existing controls, particularly speeding and jumping lights, or where controls are inadequate. It does appear from the map that Mays Lane, 20mph throughout and a width restriction, has a rather better accident record than other main roads. We are well aware that the council abandoned road humps as a control on speed and has put no alternative in place. We are left with a suspicion that the council is citing footway parking in the absence or more robust accident prevention measures. Other initiatives that offer more meaningful results need to be explored e.g. the notion that removing white lines in the centre if roads reduces accidents is the kind of progressive imaginative thinking that we would like to see explored in Barnet.

COMMUTER PARKING (3.6)

In High Barnet the major commuter issue is people travelling into town to work there. We do not wish unduly discourage these people as their jobs are important to the local economy. Even though some of them could no doubt commute by public transport we would not wish to see a penal regime that discourages all just to deal with a few. Carrots would be better than sticks. As part of the recent restructuring of parking provision in High Barnet commuters have been banned from prime shopper parking areas but encouraged to park in more peripheral locations. This could be further extended if all day parking was allowed in rarely used CPZ bays currently designated for residents only (e.g around Ravenscroft Park). For rail commuters far more could be done by TFL to expand station parking by construction of multi-story car parks.

SUPPORTING BUSINESS IN THE HIGH ST (3.7)

We have noticed that in many areas of London (e.g Clapham Jct, Richmond, Wimbledon, Sidcup). major changes have been introduced to change the balance between pedestrians and vehicles, in particular the widening of pavements and removing all parking bays from the main High St. In each of these cases we know this has benefited trade evidenced by the low shop vacancy rate. Again, we would like to see such progressive thinking in Barnet which to date has been is notable by its absence.

CPZ PERMITS AND VOUCHERS (4.2..2 and APP 6)

We would like to see very clear guidelines for the basis on which CPZ permits are priced. When CPZs were first introduced residents were given to understand that charges would be set to cover the cost of administration. Since then, and with no guidelines to work from, the council ended up with the debacle two years ago by losing to a residents challenge in the High Court. The outcome of that case points to the need for clear parameters that inform charges.

Although discussing various options for varying permit charges the council appears to be set on a charging regime based on emission levels. We consider this to be a very bad idea. There is the point of principle that CPZs are there to protect residents parking from being overwhelmed by vehicles from other areas. Charging based on the emissions from residents vehicles is nothing to do with parking - it would be a tax introduced for another reason entirely. CPZs cover about 10% of vehicles in the Borough, but many of the CPZs are in areas of modest housing where gas-guzzlers are thin on the ground. There are indeed many such vehicles in the Borough but these are more likely to be found in richer areas which do not have CPZs or the houses have their own off-road parking. Thus a minority would be discriminated against whilst the majority get off scot-free. The impact on overall emission levels would be minimal. The correct way to tackle the emission problem is to have measures that apply to everyone - the Govt already do this through vehicle excise dut and, fuel tax, and maybe more could be done e.g. by banning gas guzzlers from the Congestion Zone or specified town centres. The emphasis on electric cars to support low emissions (3.4) is equally feeble as electric cars have just not caught on.

We do agree that measures to vary charges could be examined, but only in the context of controlling parking. A policy could be introduced to control the number of residents vehicles in CPZ areas where demand for parking space exceeds supply, as evidenced by the number of permits vs. available bays. Most terraces houses have only a single kerbside space but some properties have two or three cars, in effect taking someone else’s space. Higher charges for second and third vehicles would be one mechanism to deal with this. Charging by length of vehicle may be another possibility.

We would not favour charges based on the length of the CPZ hours. Just one hour in commuter areas has the effect of providing all-day protection - just the same outcome as in shopper areas with longer designated hours.

CPZ PROCEDURES AND CONSULTATION (6.5)

We welcome the initiative to bring some order to a messy system that had led to considerable dissatisfaction. We would urge that the consultation includes the publication of the voting results street by street and not just the aggregation of the whole area under consideration. We have had a particular instance where the vote was clearly split between sub-areas even thought he overall vote was narrowly in favour. Following protests the council retreated from imposing the CPZ on everyone (CA - Wood St area). We also have concerns (again evident in the Wood St case) that streets where most properties had driveways more readily voted in favour of a CPZ. Some recognition of this needs to be built into the process so it can be weighted to inform the decision.

CPZ HOURS OF OPERATION (6.6)

We would expect to see here a presumption of minimum hours commensurate with the problems the CPZ seeks to tackle, linked to the expressed views of residents on the hours they would wish to have. This brings us to the issue of CPZ Reviews - where the introduction states an intention to review every four years. Looking at past performance we find this a wholly unrealistic proposal. In High Barnet a review was undertaken seven years ago but nothing came out of it - according to the council because they did not have the resources to analyse the responses to the questionnaire (even though we offered to do it for free). So we urge a realistic system, but one that actually happens. And in view of the previous fiasco could High Barnet be first for a review please?

SIGNAGE (6.11)

We find this very disappointing. The fact that less obtrusive signs are allowed for conservation areas is an acknowledgement that the standard tall poles are intrusive and ugly - as indeed they are. If the smaller signposts are good enough for enforcing controls in some areas they must be good enough for everywhere. That the council apparently considers that areas not under conservation controls are too unattractive to warrant the smaller poles is quite insulting. At the very least residents should be consulted on their preferences when new CPZs are introduced or pavements relaid.

FOOTWAY PARKING (8.10)

We are somewhat bemused that much of the paper is dedicated to this issue. It appears to be a council obsession but starts from an the incorrect assumption that pavement parking is rarely justified. But our experience suggests that drivers do it for practical reasons such as keeping narrow roads clear for traffic or improving safety on blind bends. There have been a number of controversial instances where long-term pavement parking has suddenly seen large numbers of cars ticketed. Thus the suspicion has arisen that a tighter regime is more about raising revenue than safe or sensible parking policies. We would like to see a properly controlled system in place, but form a starting point that there are usually good reasons why cars are parked on the pavement in the first place.

We also reject the claim that pavements are damaged from two - wheels up, provided it is only private cars. However in High Barnet High St dozens of paving slabs have been broken by large delivery trucks mounting the pavement. These are a real menace for the many pedestrians and add to the tawdry image of the town centre. Similarly in Alston Rd many paving slabs have been broken by passing vehicles - mainly buses, thought the problem has been ameliorated by the use of bollards. There is no mention of any of this in the paper though it is a problem which does need tackling and, in our view, is far more serious than cars two wheels up.

BLUE BADGE FRAUD (9.2)

We are pleased to see the reference to the 2013 act, but when recently quizzing CEOs they have asserted that they have no powers to challenge blue badge use and their training programme highlights this. So the impression given in the paper that there was and currently is an enforcement process in place is incorrect. We have been in correspondence with the council and are assured that tighter procedures will be introduced,. The paper ought to reflect the true situation.

We hope these comments prove helpful and notice will be taken of those issues where we consider the council has not yet got it right.

Gordon Massey

Chairman

13 October 2014