The Department of Transport has been conducting a review of pavement parking regulations for years. They still have not yet published proposals, but at a recent Transport Select Committee meeting, a transport minister gave an interesting insight into the current thinking.
The issue of pavement parking law was raised by a backbencher MP in 2015, and the DfT review dates from then. The civil servants have done their research, consultation and analysis, and it is now waiting on ministers to decide. But the ministers keep on changing ! Jesse Norman was replaced by Michael Ellis in May, and Michael Ellis was replaced by Chris Heaton-Harris in August.
Michael Ellis appeared before the committee in July 2019. He seemed well-briefed and gave balanced responses to the committee’s questions. He gave a good overview of the current thinking, the actions being considered, and their pros and cons.
The existing position is that in London, pavement parking is banned except where it is explicitly allowed, which makes it easily enforceable. In most other places, enforcement action can be applied only if the pavement is obstructed or if pavement parking has been banned by a Traffic Regulation Order. Councils do use TROs, but they are bureaucratic and use up councils’ scarce time, money and resource. Most councils have civil enforcement powers but do not use them. The police can enforce an obstruction offence but it is way down their priory list.
The key points that emerged from the committee session were:
- London is different. It has fewer cars per person and better public transport;
- the problem is greatest for local authorities with denser populations, because of the nature of the streets and larger stocks of terraced housing;
- the solution is not straightforward, which is why it has taken so long to decide;
- some roads are not wide enough, and some pavement parking is essential;
- whether the default is that pavement parking is allowed or not allowed, there is a burden on local authorities to determine where the default does not apply. Some local authorities say that 50% of their streets would have to be exempted from a blanket ban;
- exemptions from the default require more signs – more street clutter.
Elements of the solution could be:
- take enforcement away from the police. Make obstruction a civil offence. “Obstruction” and “necessary “ would need defining;
- a public awareness campaign could have more impact than changing the rules;
- update the TRO process for the digital age.
For more information, see the transcript of the committee session:
Pavement parking – oral evidence given by Michael Ellis MP, Minister of State on 3 Jul 2019 .