The Future of Parking Enforcement

I’ve been asked by the British Parking Assoc to give a view on The Future of Parking Enforcement during a BPA seminar following the government’s recent response to the parking code enforcement framework consultation.  The key issue, despite 80% of respondents being against it, is their intention to mirror the local authority charging structure, capping penalty charges outside of London at £50 for the least serious breaches, with early payment securing a 50% discount. A £25 fine to park where you like – an affordable amount to the average driver and hardly a deterrent to tackling irresponsible parking behaviour.

Naturally, this is likely to present huge implications across the parking sector, including towns, cities and the retail sector as a whole.  This set me off thinking about the issue of parking in a wider sense.

Back in 2017, I wrote an article which said, “The years since the Millennium have been described as a period of “creative destruction” as old ways of doing things change radically and at a pace never seen before.  As an example, I gave Kodak, who just over 20 years ago had 170,000 employees and sold 85% of all photo paper worldwide. Just a few years later, their business model was decimated and they were bankrupt.

I had no idea back then that we were about to put our foot down hard on the accelerator of change!

I often walk to our local newsagent and even if I’m just buying a paper I pay by card.  There are still lots of on-street and off-street parking terminals that only take cash.  So pre-pandemic!

As for on-street, maybe we will need less, but can we make our on-street spaces work harder?  In January I wrote an article extolling the virtues of “Parklets” that is using a parking space as external seating and dining i.e. creating the mythical café culture, which we all admire in Copenhagen but then say it’s too cold here.

These changes have become mainstream but again there is a trade-off of loss of potential income from what was a parking space. Fitzrovia BID were kind enough to share a monitoring report, compiled by Arup, with me following the FitzPark trial in Windmill Street, Fitzrovia, London.  Originally installed in July 2017 for a period of six months, at the end of the trial the survey of impacted businesses were 100% for retention.  This reminds me of the debate over pedestrianisation.  Everybody thinks it will be the death knell of business, but nobody wants to take it out once complete.

But it does have to mean fewer spaces and a potential reduction in revenue.  The Click & Collect phenomenon offers some insights.  Out-of-town shopping centres and retail parks manage their parking assets in accordance with the needs of the businesses that rely on them. The connected value between businesses and the car park allow the businesses themselves to subsidise the cost of parking on behalf of motorists, with customers paying indirectly through the till. This removes charges at the point of use making the parking offer more attractive even though it is not actually free.

The capacity for this level of business influence in-town seldom exists because of a lack of natural connected value between the parking facilities and the business community, as parking assets are not often owned by the businesses that rely on them.  The actual owners, whether local government or private providers, have to recoup the costs directly from users rather than through the till.  Initiatives like Parking Perx are helping redress the imbalance.

If we introduced far more Parklets, with the business occupying the space paying a “ground rent” or licence fee, with increased availability of short term parking for click and collect giving a higher turnover, making each space more productive, we might have a win-win.  The key here will be thinking about car parking holistically, as a key lever in the economy of a town centre. Finding the “connected value”.

Then there is the growth of town centre living.  At the moment, we have the ludicrous situation of a Business Rates holiday for occupiers, but that doesn’t transfer to owners of vacant shops – or car parks etc.  This puts pressure on landlords to find a use.  Then we have the government deregulating to allow the conversion of commercial premises to housing without planning permission.  This has obvious consequence.  A conspiracy theory too far?

So, to bring us back to parking and the importance of a more holistic approach to its provision and management, if the level of private parking charge deterrent is reduced it will allow anyone outside of London to park all day, anywhere for £25. That is a big problem! And one which I look forward to discussing at the BPA webinar event.

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