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Government green lights nuisance driving

The British Parking Association’s Isaac Occhipinti responds to the transport secretary’s Plan for Drivers’ announcements on LTNs and traffic enforcement

Isaac Occhipinti
21 March 2024
Isaac Occhipinti
Isaac Occhipinti

On 17 March the government issued further details on its Plan for Drivers. The main new sections announced were guidance on low traffic neighbourhoods (LTNs) and a call for evidence on restricting the generation of surplus funds from traffic contraventions. For the British Parking Association (BPA) these two documents represent an unprecedented attack from central government on the fundamentals on how local authorities manage local parking and traffic.

LTNs are a relatively new development that emerged during the years of COVID lockdowns. We recognise that not all operated smoothly at the start and work was needed to improve them. The BPA works continuously with members to ensure best practice in any traffic or parking management schemes. However, whilst we accept that enhanced guidance for new traffic schemes should always be explored and signage made more uniform, the current rhetoric and implied punishments for councils is proving to be extremely damaging and misleading.

The proposal that non-compliance with the new guidance could lead to restrictions or curtailing of local authority access to DVLA keeper records would significantly restrict them in enforcing wider traffic and parking schemes. This would be a disaster for local road users and residents. It also seems to be being managed in an arbitrary way, giving the Secretary of State unchecked power to curtail an authorities access on a whim. Can we trust that it won’t be used for political reasons?

The call for evidence on restricting the generation of surplus funds from traffic contraventions could also have significant impacts on local authorities’ ability to manage traffic and parking. This could exacerbate existing problems with persistent evaders, Blue Badge fraud and other anti-social behaviour that evidence indicates is increasing in frequency.

As part of the proposals, they have already decided to delay more councils getting moving traffic enforcement (MTE) powers indefinitely. Granting more local authorities MTE powers, which would enable them to mitigate problematic driving behaviour, is key to improving areas of significant disruption. These powers have been successfully implemented in several areas in England since 2022 and evidence shows they are having a positive impact; keeping children safe from inconsiderate and dangerous driving and parking outside of schools, keeping pedestrian areas free of cars and preventing careless driving the wrong way down one-way streets and ignoring no entry signs.

Local community engagement and feedback in these areas demonstrates that most local residents are supportive and appreciative of better management of their streets, which is protecting them from inconsiderate and dangerous drivers.

The call for evidence also has a hidden proposal that would represent an unprecedented cash grab from local authority revenues. It asks if surpluses from parking and traffic management operations should be diverted straight to the Treasury. Currently these funds, where surpluses are made, are used to provide local residents with concessionary bus passes, repair roads and provide other local transport benefits – their loss would be a blow to local communities across the country.

Over a third of councils in England do not make any surplus from traffic enforcement and for a majority any surplus is relatively small once the cost of providing the service has been covered. Cherry-picking figures to suggest all councils are setting out with the intention to make money from traffic enforcement paints an inaccurate picture. It also neglects to remind us of the real purpose and benefits of good traffic management taking place every day in our communities, without which roads and parking places would be utter chaos.

The BPA knows from independent research that the public are very concerned about problem driving. These developments, along with other parts of the Plan for Drivers, do not support the majority who drive with consideration and follow the rules of the road, nor do they appear to be recognising the significant problems caused by nuisance motorists.

The BPA are calling on government to rethink the Plan for Drivers and the proposals that they are considering. We are in need of a cohesive and measured plan that truly supports the majority of compliant drivers, rather than effectively rewarding non-compliance. We need plans to tackle persistent evaders, tackle the issue of problematic parking around schools. We need government to work with the sector to ensure that the road network works as it should and for everyone. At the moment we are asking if the Plan for Drivers is actually a cheat’s charter which benefits inconsiderate drivers, because at the moment the real impact of the proposed measures will certainly not be good for the majority.

Isaac Occhipinti is head of external affairs at the British Parking Association

The BPA is a not-for-profit membership association which collaborates with its members and stakeholders so they can support their local communities by providing the parking services they need and improving compliance with parking rules and regulations.

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