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Proposed CCTV ban to get rocky ride in Lords?

12 Jul

The government introduced a clause to ban CCTV parking enforcement into the Deregulation Bill at a very late stage, allowing only the most superficial debate in the Commons before passing it to the House of Lords, who appear to have little enthusiasm for the proposal with not a single statement being made in support of a ban. The Lords indicating that they will be scrutinising the bill in considerable detail over the coming months.

Why is this important? Because it is up legislators to take the lead on this issue. They need to create and support clear fair and enforceable laws to protect pedestrians. Without appropriate laws, or with laws that are in practice or by design unenforceable then they are useless.

The government has failed to do this for the past 30 years, but the mood is changing. The number of vehicles on our streets increases every year and selfish motorists getting ever bolder and more audacious in the choices of parking locations.

In response to this there is a powerful coalition of diverse interests forming that is pushing for effective regulation that includes the Local Government Association, the British Parking Association in addition to the RNIB, Age UK, Guide Dogs and Living Streets.

This latest move appears to be taking the government into a pretty uncomfortable place. I will watch with interest to see how this pans out!

Verbatim transcription

Rather than summarise the debate, I have included all relevant content from the 2nd reading in the Lords, markingwhat I consider to be the key remarks using bold.

Lord Wallace of Saltaire (LD): … Clauses 35 to 40 remove some of the outdated burdens relating to transport legislation, bringing legislation into line with practice; for example, removing the requirement on local authorities to seek permission from the Secretary of State to establish, alter or remove zebra crossings. This section also includes measures limiting the use of CCTV when issuing parking fines by post and removes the automatic reopening of formal investigations of marine accidents when new evidence, however trivial, comes to light.

Lord Stevenson of Balmacara (Lab): I thank the Minister for introducing the Deregulation Bill today and look forward to the many speeches to come. With more than 30 noble Lords listed to speak, I am sure that every clause and schedule will get some attention as we start what I suspect will be a long job, stretching out, perhaps, until the end of the year. We intend to scrutinise very carefully this rather mixed bag that the Government have put before us. I am joined on the Front Bench for the majority of the Bill by my noble friends Lady Hayter and Lord Tunnicliffe, but others will have to come in with their expertise on areas of the Bill. …

The Bill contains a controversial blanket ban on the use of CCTV for parking offences, something that the LGA, the British Parking Association, cycling groups, head teachers and charities representing blind and disabled people have argued against, while businesses and motoring groups offered mixed responses, with some motoring groups calling the ban a retrograde step and some businesses stressing that CCTV could remain beneficial at particular times and on particular occasions. …

Lord Rooker: In my last two minutes, I turn to two clauses that concern me: Clause 38 on parking and Clause 43 and Schedule 11 on waste collection. Anyone who has been a councillor for any length of time knows that the two subjects you never, ever touch within a year of an election are parking and waste collection. Why on earth are the Government interfering in these matters within a year of a general election? Despite that foolishness, I have to ask again about those two core activities—the core business of local authorities. Minister after Minister in all parties will say that it is local people who know best and that one size does not fit all. Why are the Government now trying to interfere and to regulate — never mind within a year of a general election—in these matters that are essential to local government?

My 40 years as a local councillor were spent representing a controlled parking zone in a town centre area vital to the local economy. We all know that one size does not fit all. That was in the London Borough of Sutton. It has a different regime from the Royal Borough of Kingston next door, or the London Borough of Croydon next door or indeed the London Borough of Wandsworth, which I know the Minister knows particularly well. Why are the Government interfering? What is the justification for this? We will go into it in very much more detail in Committee. However, as I think has been mentioned, the consultation from the Department for Transport on parking received a lot of responses, almost all of them hostile. On the issue of the CCTV ban, which this clause covers, six of the eight organisations responding—from the British Parking Association to cycling and disability groups—were strongly opposed to the Government’s proposed ban. Only two had a mixed reaction, one of which was from the motoring organisations, so even they were not unanimously agreed on the ban. We still do not know exactly what the exemptions are. It is difficult in this area to distinguish between what are actually government proposals and what has come from the Friday afternoon press release from the Secretary of State, preparatory presumably to his Friday evening in the pub, where most of these utterings seem rather better fitted than to legislation.

Waste collection again is causing considerable concern to local authorities, not least the likely increased cost and complexity of introducing these additional regulations. As has been said, this is a big deregulation Bill. I thought that the clue might be in the name. In fact we are proposing to introduce more regulation, which will make carrying out the essential task of waste collection more complex and more expensive. I know that my noble friend the Minister is, if anything, an even stronger localist than I am. I look forward in his closing speech to his justification for why these measures meet the test of proportionality and necessity.

Baroness Eaton (Con): I understand that many councils have raised concerns about the Government’s proposals to ban the use of CCTV for parking enforcement. At this point, I must declare an interest as I am a member of an advisory board for the Marston Group Ltd. I know that councils are concerned about these proposals as they could prevent them from using CCTV for parking enforcement, particularly outside schools, at bus stops, and on clearways. In particular, we must ensure that children are protected from irresponsible parking outside schools. As I understand it, the Bill allows the Secretary of State to exempt certain places from a ban but if the Bill takes effect before the guidance is in force, it may be impossible to enforce parking restrictions which will be referred to within the guidance. It would be helpful if the Minister could agree to meet with the LGA on this very important issue. …

Lord Davies of Oldham (Lab): … The second area we are concerned about is the banning of CCTV for parking enforcement. I have great sympathy with the Government in seeking to tackle a problem whereby the citizen receives a fine through the post, not having been aware that a charge has been laid, to which they have to make immediate return. We do not seem to have tackled this issue thoroughly or properly. On 10 June, the Government said that they had not reached a decision; on 17 June an amendment was made to the Bill in other place and was immediately translated into the Bill by a government majority.

There are real risks to road safety. There are risks at schools. There are risks in bus lanes, where drivers will chance it if they think they will not be surveyed. There are risks at bus stops. There are risks at yellow boxes on junctions. They are a good idea and have eased congestion, but a good idea is destroyed if one driver chances it and sits in that box and blocks the traffic. If the Government are open to persuasion that there should be exemptions to ending closed circuit TV prosecutions in these areas, those exemptions should be in the Bill and we will seek to achieve that. …

Lord Whitty (Lab): … I follow my noble friend Lord Davies in relation to the transport provisions and, in particular, CCTV. This is populism gone mad. If we cannot enforce parking restrictions, we not only endanger the safety of road users and pedestrians but also provide no parking space for motorists. If people can continue to park in restricted areas with impunity, there will be no parking space for the vast majority. By adopting the Jeremy Clarkson interpretation of the motorists’ interests, the Government have gone down exactly the wrong road. Just as the taxi provisions are not in the interests of the users of taxis, these parking provisions are not in the interests of the vast majority of motorists; our towns will get clogged up and there will be more accidents.

Lord Low of Dalston (CB): … Clause 38 amends the Road Traffic Act to prevent local authorities from issuing penalty charge notices through the post and using CCTV for parking enforcement in particular circumstances. I was glad to see that the Opposition have some reservations about this. The clause was inserted following a government consultation on local authority parking strategies. The Government acknowledged that a common theme in responses to the consultation was the need for a uniform approach to pavement parking, but this has not been followed up in the Bill. That is a major omission. Pavement parking is dangerous for pedestrians, especially parents with pushchairs, wheelchair users and other disabled people, including blind and partially sighted people, who may be forced out into the road where they cannot see oncoming traffic. Pavements are not designed to take the weight of vehicles and they cause pavements to crack and the tarmac surface to subside. This is also a hazard to pedestrians, who may trip on broken pavements, and particularly to blind and partially sighted people, who cannot observe the damage. It is also expensive. Local authorities paid more than £1 billion on repairing kerbs, pavements and walkways between 2006 and 2010; £106 million was also paid in compensation claims to people tripping and falling on broken pavements during the same five-year period.

Guide Dogs for the Blind Association, with the support of at least a dozen other organisations, is calling for laws across the UK prohibiting pavement parking unless specifically permitted, such as have been in place in Greater London since 1974. Local authorities report that existing measures are insufficient. In a recent YouGov survey, 78% of councillors supported a national law with flexibility for local authorities to make exemptions. The Transport Select Committee described the current system as unduly complex and difficult for motorists to understand. A Private Member’s Bill with cross-party support has been presented in the other place by Martin Horwood MP. There is considerable support for a law of this type, and I very much hope that the Government will give it serious consideration.

Baroness Hayter of Kentish Town (Lab):As for banning CCTV for parking, this comes from the same Government who brought in the Localism Act but now decide to dictate to local authorities how they can enforce, or not enforce, parking as they think best, and despite six of the eight consultation responses opposing a CCTV ban. As the noble Lord, Lord Tope, said, it is, after all, local government that knows its area best. In my own borough of Camden, more than 85% of CCTV enforcements cover major junctions, bus stops, pedestrian crossings and no-waiting areas. In a busy urban area these are key to keeping traffic moving and for safety, as the noble Lord, Lord Low, the noble Baroness, Lady Eaton, and my noble friends Lord Davies of Oldham and Lord Whitty said. …

Lord Wallace of Saltaire:Parking has also raised a lot of issues for many noble Lords, with the question of CCTV and parking fines. I say to the noble Lord, Lord Davies of Oldham, that we have not considered the risks of removing the use of CCTV as we are not talking about doing that. There were a number of questions about how CCTV is used at a local level, on which all of us have slightly different and ambivalent views. Again, we will come back to that in detail in Committee.

School’s video shame ‘naughty parents’ who park illegally outside schools

9 Jul

A few days after Eric Pickles failed to get CCTV enforcement vehicles banned outside schools Cambridgeshire County Council launched a road safety video featuring hundreds of primary school children that encourages parents not to flout parking laws outside schools. A road safety spokesman for the council said that parking issues outside schools were one of the most common issues they dealt with and police officers urged antisocial parents to “shape up and stop wasting police time”. Earlier in the year the police had a crackdown on the “nightmare” illegal parking outside Cambridge schools following reported fights between parents with some success!

And here is a photo I took a few days ago outside a local primary school shortly before children started arriving. The caretaker puts cones out on the zig-zags every day because they are ignored otherwise by some parents, and even when they do put them out I have seen parents squeezing into the spaces at the end of them! When will our politicians ‘brave up’ and realise that they should be supporting our schools, kids, councils and the police instead of listening to a minority of drivers who cause so many difficulties for the rest of us?

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Eric Pickles is not even supported by the motoring lobby!

26 Aug

A few months ago Eric Pickles suggested that motorists should be allowed to park on double yellow lines for 10 minutes (later raised to 15 minutes or longer) to help the local economy. Today we learn that he wants councils to end their “draconian” parking policies, “over-zealous traffic wardens” and end their “anti-car dogma”. Needless to say, this sort of thing results in loads of hostility from the left which I guess he enjoys. I find it more interesting that the police and the core motoring organisations also object. If he doesn’t have the support of these people, then who is it who is being dogmatic I wonder?

By way of example:

The West Midlands Crime Commissioner wrote “I do find Eric Pickles’ proposal for people to be able to park on yellow lines an ill thought out and potentially dangerous proposal… It will also be immensely difficult to take effective action against anyone exceeding a 15 minute stay and would require officers checking vehicles approximately every 20 minutes.  To achieve this, you would probably need to treble the number of parking enforcement officers… This policy is damaging to safety, smooth flow of traffic and to the attractiveness of shopping centres themselves”

The RAC Foundation, the AA and the British Chambers of Commerce all suggested that yellow lines regulations were fine as they were, The RAC Foundation explaining “allowing people to stop for longer periods of time on double yellow lines would add to rather than diminish local congestion and parking problems.”

Personally, I can’t express it better than the British Parking Association who wrote an open letter to him to express their “immense frustration” at his “irresponsible” suggestions and his “wholly unacceptable attack on civil enforcement officers”. They also noted that 60% of drivers think parking enforcement is about right and that another 20% think that it is not tough enough!

Here is their letter in full:

The Rt Hon Eric Pickles MP
Secretary of State for Communities & Local Government
Eland House
Bressenden Place
London
SW1E 5DU
19th March 2013

Dear Mr Pickles

Parking Enforcement

I am writing to express the immense frustration felt by local authorities by your comments about parking enforcement at the Spring Forum at the weekend.

Your central argument seems to be that local authorities should allow motorists “10 minutes” to visit local shops. You must know that many local authorities already provide short term parking for shoppers in smaller town centres and invest heavily in off street parking in large towns where the demand for on street parking is high.

It is irresponsible to encourage motorists to park on waiting restrictions which are designed to manage congestion and reduce road safety hazards as well as, in some cases, help buses, cyclists and pedestrians.

With reference to the way Councils manage their enforcement contracts, your comments have encouraged a wholly unacceptable attack on civil enforcement officers who are providing an important public service to protect the interests of the silent majority of motorists who benefit from their actions and who recognise the impractical proposition of everyone being able to park exactly where they want.

The parking profession recognises its role in promoting and sustaining the High Street during these difficult times and you will know through your Town Teams initiative that there are many good examples of how Councils use their parking policy to make towns more accessible and their car parks more attractive, convenient and safe. However, recent reports by both the Association of Town and City Management and London Councils shows that there is only a tenuous link between parking and the sustainability of our High Streets. Additionally a recent RAC Foundation report found that 6o% of drivers felt there was the right amount of enforcement on Britain’s High Streets with 20% feeling there should be more and 20% arguing there should be less. It is no coincidence I suggest that only around 20% of motorists receive parking tickets.

I would welcome the opportunity to meet with you to discuss these points further but perhaps more importantly to assess how we can help in assuaging your concerns about parking policy particularly as new technology provides new opportunities to better manage traffic and parking in our towns and cities.

Yours sincerely

Patrick Troy
Chief Executive

Encroachment, obstruction, interference and nuisance

17 Jan

Suffolk County council explain on their website, that they “have a duty to protect the public rights of passage on the road and footpath network”; also that they have a duty to ensure that roads are free from “danger, encroachments, interference, nuisance and obstructions” and that their officers “are sometimes required to deal with businesses and individuals who obstruct or otherwise interfere with the rights of the public to use the road.” OK, so why are they not ‘dealing’ with the owners of these vehicles (and bins) who are encroaching on the highway, creating danger and interfering with the rights of the public to use the road, and use the pavement in particular?

Almost onto private property, but not quite!

Encroaching on the pavement from both sides at once

Ouch. No chance of getting along here.

Bins everywhere but no action from the authorities

Encroaching from both sides

A Parcelforce van this time, optimism knows no bounds!

Same old story, big car, small hard-standing and a pincer movement

More big cars ‘stealing’ part of the highway

A nasty tow-hook on this one

The pavement is impassible and the dropped kerb has been broken up by the weight of vehicles

These two vans have claimed this pavement as their permanent parking space

I will ask the council and my MP, Ben Gummer about this and see what they have to say.

Motorists fight back – and win

21 Sep

In Richmond, London the council has been forced to repay £1 million in parking fines to 18,500 motorists who were caught parking on the pavement by an incorrectly licenced CCTV enforcement vehicle.

On the Isle of Man residents have persuaded the council to remove four steel posts that they had previously installed to protect the pavement from parked vehicles. They had been installed when a resident complained about the larger vehicles constantly blocking pavements on the corner.

In Barnet there is another petition from local motorists demanding that the council stops giving them tickets for parking on the pavements.

A disabled man in north London is up-in-arms about not being allowed to park on the pavement saying that the council ‘was only doing it to make money’. Shame that he can’t see what would be the result if they didn’t fine motorists for parking on the pavement.

On a lighter note. Some enterprising, but possibly foolish, individual in Manchester tried issuing their own very convincing parking tickets complete with information on how to pay the apparent £60 (35 if paid promptly) fine to the ficticious ‘Greater Manchester Highways Safety Monitoring Partnership’ via and PO box number. A 40-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of fraud and bailed pending further inquiries.

However possibly we are actually get away lightly in the UK. Here are a couple of stories from other places.

In Moscow they have an idea that creating a floating car park for 100 vehicles on the Moscow River by Vorobyovy Gory nature reserve with be the answer. The car park would be free to use and ‘be paid for by the cafe also included in the proposal’ which seems a little unlikely. The situation in Moscow seems terrible with motorists driving along the pavement as well as parking on it.

And then in USA a school is laying on buses because the car park for school pupils is closed for 3 weeks. the school says “If eligible for transportation, please encourage students to take the bus in order to avoid a back up in drop off and pick up lines. If you must drive your children to school, please allow extra time. The start of the school day will NOT be delayed because of traffic.”

 

 

 

 

 

Police apparently reasssures motorist that persistent illegal parking is OK

12 Aug

I have reported this Jaguar car to the police on a number of occasions for parking in a raised crossing outside a local primary school over the past 9 months – the car even takes pride of place at the the top of our ‘Rogues gallery‘. I saw the owner in his car today for the first time. He told me that the police has visited him about 3 months ago and said that it was OK for him to continue parking as he was. I am very surprised to hear that because I have personally reminded the local sergeant about the Traffic Management Act 2004 (section 86) which says that it is illegal to block a raised crossing. Possibly the police were confused because there is also a single yellow line which doesn’t apply after 6pm. Whatever the truth is, it is clear that the guy didn’t stop parking illegally so the police can’t have done much to enforce the law.

The guy told me that he was moving today, so as a send-off here are some of the photos taken over the past 9 months including one taken today of the van he is using to move house parked up on the raised crossing as well! I will send a copy of this post to my local sergeant in a few days to remind him to respond to my last two letters on the subject. I will include any (polite) messages that are left at the end of this post over the next few days.

Jaguar still on the crossing in August 2011

Jaguar on the raised crossing outside the school in June 2011

Our friend the Jaguar driver again, back in May 2011)

Jaguar on a raised platform with a single yellow line in November 2010)

His removal van up on the raised crossing today!

Sheds, cycle stores, planters and sofas…

1 Aug

I was reminded yesterday that once upon a time people who parked on the highway took care to park facing in the direction of travel and to use parking lights at night. It is a long time since I heard of either these regulations being enforced and to be honest had forgotten all about them so I have done some investigating. Some things have changed in the intervening period but some have not. Here are the current regulations:

  • “You MUST NOT park on a road at night facing against the direction of the traffic flow unless in a recognised parking space” (Highway Code rule 248, Road Vehicles Construction and Use Regulations 1986 Section 101, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • “Goods vehicles exceeding 1525 kg [which include Ford Transits  btw] MUST NOT be left on a road at night without lights [regardless of the speed limit]” (Highway code rule 250, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • “All vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked at night within 10 meters of a junction [regardless of speed limit]”. (Highway code rule 249, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • “All vehicles MUST display parking lights when parked on a road or a lay-by on a road with a speed limit greater than 30 mph” (Highway code rule 249, Road Vehicles Lighting Regulations 1989 section 24).
  • Then of course there are of course the rules that you must not drive on the pavement (Highway Code rule 145) and rule 239 which says something along the lines of ‘you should not park on the highway unless you have to’ which is of course completely pointless without a clear definition of what ‘have to’ means.

A quick survey around where I live shows that there is an average of 1 contravention per parked vehicle which is quite an achievement given that a significant number of vehicles are parked legally. One commercial vehicle that was parked at night facing the wrong way with wheels up on the pavement without lights within 10 meters of a junction scoring a maximum 4 points. Many others scored 2 (wrong direction and up on the pavement).

Clearly the authorities are not enforcing these regulations and I am quite sure that no amount of encouragement will persuade them to start doing so. So why mention it at all? Only because if these authorities seem happy for people to do pretty much what they want to when if comes to leaving cars on the highway then possibly it is time to start leaving other interesting ‘stuff’ on the highway to stir things up a bit and get some debate going.

What would happen if a rash of sheds, planters, children’s play equipment, bicycle stores and sofas etc etc turned up on roads across the country. Each item would have a clear label saying that this was private property and an explanation of why it ‘had to be’ left of the highway. One person ‘had’ to leave a shed on the highway because there was not enough room for it in their  garden? another ‘had’ to put a cycle rack in the road because the front hall was not wide enough for people to get past if the cycle was kept indoors? and a third ‘had’ to put a kids swing in the road because it wouldn’t fit down the passageway beside the house, etc etc?.

When the authorities come after the owners then the owner will ask for confirmation that the law is going to be enforced fairly and will string things out. It would be visual and engaging for the media!

I am reminded of the splendid person who gave evidence to the parliament back in 2001 who saidIf pedestrians placed a chair on the carriageway it would be removed immediately, even though it would obstruct a smaller proportion of the road than when a car parks on the pavement. Cars could slow down and take care to avoid the chair, as pedestrians have to with parked cars. The Highways Act applies equally to the road and the footway. Pedestrians are being discriminated against“.

Any thoughts?