In the Telegraph report on Eric Pickles’ changes to stop local councils from using CCTV to issue fines to drivers that park illegally, there is the following line:
“Ministers are trying to ease the policing of parking, as they believe it often makes driving to shops too difficult and forces people to go out of town or online.”
The assertion (unattributed, but doubtless made by a press officer or adviser) is contradicted by the conclusions of a report called ‘The relevance of parking in the success of urban centres’, one of which is as follows:
Mary Portas in her review into the future of high streets recommends that:
“Local areas should implement free controlled parking schemes that work for their town centres”
The problem is that there is no such thing as ‘free’ parking.
All the research reviewed, including that sponsored by industry associations such as the British Parking Association highlights that somebody has to pay for the development and maintenance of parking spaces, as well as the management of any enforcement regime to ensure their efficient use. This cost may fall to developers and private businesses in the case of shopping centres or large retail stores. Most on street parking is the responsibility of local authorities and therefore it local taxpayers who pick up the cost of provision if revenue is not sufficient to cover costs.
As Shoup and the COST Report indicate, the introduction of ‘free’ parking often does not have the desired effect in terms of increasing visitors or shoppers to any area. In fact, it most often leads to a reduction in turnover of spaces, i.e. longer parking stays mean less visitors per day, with the most usual beneficiaries being local workers. This means that retails sales reduce rather than increase.
A typical government decision – based on what will look good on the front pages, rather than on evidence.