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Colchester wants control over town centre private car parks


30 November 2020

Colchester Borough Council has approved a new car parking strategy that proposes  gaining more control over privately operated car parks in the town centre. 

The strategy is intended to  support the council’s climate emergency declaration. Parking charges will be used to influence travel behaviour, with higher charges for car parks in higher density areas, locations well served alternative means of transport, and at peak times.

Richard Walker, group manager at the North Essex Parking Partnership, of which Colchester is the lead authority, said the strategy had been written to enable “some potentially far-reaching changes”. 

“This could affect not only what parking we provide, but what we manage, to ensure consistent application of our strategic aim. It will set the agenda for introducing schemes to allow a far more comprehensive and fairer application of charges to capture all who drive into the town centre to park at congested times, and measures to support permanent positive change in the way we travel in and about the town.” 

On privately-operated car parks, the strategy says: “The council will seek to control the charges applied by third party public car parks. This will be achieved through acquisition, the application of planning conditions or licensing.”

Andrew Potter of consultant Parking Perspectives, which helped prepare the strategy, told LTT: “We don’t think anyone has done licensing before.” 

He pointed to a letter sent by the DfT to local authority parking managers in 2011 highlighting their ability to control off-street parking through licensing powers. The powers are contained in sections 43 and 44 of the Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 and the associated Control of Off-Street Parking Orders 1978 and 1986. 

The DfT letter explained: “The powers allow, following appropriate consultation with stakeholders, for local authorities to establish controlled areas within which no person other than the local authority may operate a public off-street parking place of a prescribed description except under and in accordance with the terms and conditions of a licence granted to that person by the local authority.”

Said Potter: “There are some potential hurdles, such as enabling a district to operate the control area rather than the county council as specified in the Act (section 44). But this is part of the next steps of effecting this holistic approach to reducing vehicle use and carbon in the town centre.”

Colchester’s new strategy also proposes a workplace parking levy. Citing the only such scheme in Nottingham, the strategy says: “Colchester will seek to introduce a similar levy.”

The North Essex Parking Partnership comprises Essex County Council and six district/borough councils.

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