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06 February 2017

Monday Musing: Could this be the first bill passed with parking in the title?

The private members bill, the Parking Places (Variation of Charges) Bill, has been batted around since June last year. Finally in the last few months we have seen significant movement and further details of the Bill have been released. 

It is a clear case of two dimensional thinking rather than three!

We believe that as a result of the bill, parking spaces provided by local authorities will quickly become less costly and more attractive than privately owned off-street spaces (the majority of off-street car parks are privately run), therefore increasing the circulation time of drivers searching for a space hoping to get a cheaper parking space. This is counter-intuitive, leads to congestion and increases air pollution.

This is particularly likely if the opportunity to increase a charge to the same level or more than a nearby facility can only be realised with “public consent”; the likelihood is the public will oppose this and the charge not increase, but privately owned off-street spaces would not be subject to the same process.

If however the Bill was intended to enable local authorities to be more flexible with their pricing policies in public parking places, and to enable them to respond quickly to changing circumstances as originally called for, we would welcome it.

Instead the Government has decided to use the opportunity to impose additional burdens on local authorities to undertake full consultation and obtain consent to vary charges. This will have a reverse effect on any Council’s ability to manage parking effectively and reduce congestion in their high streets. The Bill is unnecessary as local authorities must already give notice when varying a charge whether increasing or decreasing. The notice is published in the press (21 day minimum); they may only do this after the original charge has been introduced by an Order which is already subject to consultation. 

The Government is missing an opportunity to empower local authorities’ use of new applications and technologies which will improve parking services for all and support the digital high street. Especially after our most recent research showed that motorists spend nearly four days a year looking for a parking space!

From the Committee hearing last Tuesday it is clear the Bill has Government backing. A DCLG Minister attended and spoke at length about the ‘opportunities’ this Bill can provide.

We have made some inroads following our lobbying, the Minister agreed to undertake a burden assessment and to consult with the BPA in the future as, once the Bill becomes law, and the Minister will need to make regulations before the provisions are implemented.

Although the Bill was passed unopposed at Committee stage and was reported as passed and had its third and final reading in the House of Commons last Friday, before passing to the House of Lords soon for further consideration.

The Bill in its current form hasn’t got through yet but stick around – more is yet to come.

To read the Committee transcript please click here.

You can find some very useful explanatory notes on the Bill here.

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