Guest column: Controlled Parking Zones

Following an excellent column by Lewisham Council officer Nigel Tyrell about waste management, we're very happy to bring you this article by officer Lesley Brooks, who is responsible for the equally contentious topic of Travel Demand Management - in particular, CPZs. The article follows intense discussion on this site of the question of whether Brockley needs a CPZ and the Council's recent decision to increase charges for existing CPZs.

Here's what she says:

Good parking provision is crucial and effective parking controls benefit everyone. Of course, if you’ve just been given a ticket, or you are paying for a parking permit, you might not immediately see it like that. But, despite popular opinion, our work is driven by a desire to manage parking in the borough on a fair and consistent basis.

We aim to balance the needs of all road users and to manage the competing pressures to park on unrestricted kerbside space, especially in areas of high parking demand. The main interest to the Council is the impact parking has upon factors such as: congestion; carbon emissions and pollutants; safety; sustainable transport; business activity and town centre viability; and urban design, landscape and streetscape.

The Council manages parking on all roads in the borough except priority routes – usually A roads – which are managed by Transport for London. In areas where parking controls exist we manage permits for residents, businesses, visitors, carers and health workers. We also enforce parking in pay and display areas.

Car ownership is rising steadily, increasing the parking pressures on already overcrowded roads. In many places residents now find it difficult to park anywhere near their homes. This can present major difficulties for some people and can seriously affect their quality of life, especially for parents with young children, the elderly and for those with health and mobility issues. Areas where there is heavy pressure on parking space are often found near railway stations, shops, hospitals and colleges. Sometimes quite a large area is affected, but in other cases problems
are concentrated in just a few streets.

A Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) can sometimes resolve these difficulties. The main purpose of a CPZ is to manage vehicle overcrowding. They help to control intrusive parking by limiting parking availability and give priority to residents and businesses, whilst providing short term parking for shoppers, visitors and social users.

The Council also uses CPZs to help the regeneration of our local town centres. All space other than residents’ and business’ parking space in a CPZ is short stay space. This ensures that there is more space available for people making short trips to the shops or to use local facilities.

CPZs also help to improve the local quality of life by removing obstructive parking from junctions and corners and allowing free access for local people and the emergency services.

In designing a CPZ we seek to balance competing demands and the need for car parking space, priority is given in the following order:

1. Residents
2. Shoppers, visitors, those servicing local businesses and directly adding to the local economy
3. Local workers
4. Commuters

Higher priority is given within these groups for people with mobility impairment.

The introduction of a CPZ needs to consider parking demand, supply, pricing, safety, economic and financial feasibility issues, site characteristics and local features.

Local features that increase parking pressure are commonly known as parking attractors. When designing a CPZ these parking attractors will play a vital role within the CPZ design. When controls are placed around these parking attractors particular attention should be given to areas that are within a short walking or cycling distance away, from which people can park and then walk or cycle on to the destination. This brings areas up to five miles from a particular local feature into play – and pressures on areas even further away will increase as people become more willing to cycle further distances.

The Council only introduces CPZs where there is support from a majority of residents. We do not seek to impose controls where residents don't want them. And we certainly do not seek to use CPZs – or any other parking restrictions or traffic management controls – as a means of making money for the Council.

Indeed, the Council can only use any surplus income from on-street parking – that is to say, income over and above the cost of running the service – to pay for work to repair and improve the borough’s roads, and to make them safer. So all road users benefit from parking charges. An increase in income from these charges means the Council can reduce the amount of its general budget (paid for by all tax-payers) it needs to spend on maintaining the roads. The total parking income earned in the last full financial year, 2009/10, was £5.16m: the service cost £4.48m leaving a surplus of £680,000, which was spent on improved lighting (£530,000) and traffic management schemes (£150,000).

We have raised charges this year as part of a raft of measures the Council has agreed to meet the huge savings required of it in response to cuts in Government funding - £33m needed to balance the budget just this year. No area of service has been immune to savings or the need to increase income. I recognise the rise in charges in many cases has been steep. But we have set the new charges with reference to those charged in other parts of the capital. The new price for an annual residents’ permit, for example, at £120 is at the London median for 2010/11 – and that median will undoubtedly rise as other councils also feel the need to raise charges this year.

In the Our Lewisham, Our Say consultation last year many people said they would pay extra for services rather than see them cut. Raising parking charges is a way of making sure we can continue to invest in making our roads safer. However, councillors did agree other cost savings for the parking service. This will look at the provision of back office functions and will seek the removal of pay and display equipment as we roll out parking payments by mobile phone.

I hope that I have helped to answer some of your questions about parking and to respond to some of your inevitable frustrations. I look forward to your comments.