Monday, 22 February 2010

Residents' Parking - A Way Forward?

Bristol City Council's proposals to introduce Residents Parking Schemes in Kingsdown and Cliftonwood have suffered a setback with a largely negative public response,  based on an admittedly  poor response rate, to the latest round of consultations. In Cliftonwood 57% of those responding were opposed and in Kingsdown 47% were opposed compared to 45% in favour. Only the area of Kingsdown south of Cotham Road showed a tiny majority (46.1% to 45.5%) in favour of the RPS.

Typical footway blocking in the area south of Queen's Road, Clifton - P120NRL.

It's hard to see how the Council can continue with the schemes in the face of such a response. Even the majority in the smaller Kingsdown Zone is wafer thin and hardly a solid base for proceeding. The council will decide how to proceed at its Cabinet meeting on March 25th, but is expected to delegate the decision on the Kingsdown scheme to David Bishop, the Strategic Director of City Development, which sounds to me like an attempt by the politicians to distance themselves from what will inevitably be a controversial decision whichever way it goes.

It seems clear that the Cliftonwood and north-of-Cotham Road areas will not now proceed which will leave the very obvious problems (pictured) largely unresolved. So is there perhaps a way forward that somehow reconciles the opposing factions? Back in January of last year I floated an idea which could do that, so it is perhaps time to resurrect it. The essence of my approach is to let people decide whether to be part of a Residents' Parking Scheme (RPS) on an individual basis. What could be more democratic than that?

To give a practical example supposing in a particular street there were 50% of households who wanted to opt in to an RPS, why not allocate 50% of the available parking spaces to the scheme and allow the remainder to remain uncontrolled?  Nobody need be forced in to an RPS they don't agree with. Those households who choose to remain out of the RPS will continue to compete for the remaining uncontrolled spaces as at present. The costs of setting up and managing the schemes would be borne solely by those opting in.

Such an approach could develop incrementally with people opting in or out whenever they like, subject to changes to the street markings. It need not be limited to narrowly defined areas either. In theory anyone, anywhere in Bristol could apply for an RPS in their street, even if they were the only one interested. One space could be allocated to the one member of the scheme who would pay the costs. Simple enough? Well not quite so simple in practice of course but no more complicated than the present scheme.


Jon Rogers said...

Thanks Chris

You speculate that the proposal to "delegate the decision on the Kingsdown scheme to David Bishop" ... "sounds to me like an attempt by the politicians to distance themselves".

There is no hiding or distancing possible here. We are sticking to the call in agreement in January 2009 that...

(1) We would engage with residents, business and other local organisations to improve the schemes
(2) We would seek views on the final schemes
(3) We would take the decision back to Cabinet

The schemes were originally supposed to be going to Cabinet this week.

The process has taken longer than predicted, and was then scheduled for 25th March. Even that date proved ambitious with current estimates showing that only the Cliftonwood TRO process will be complete by then.

There was debate on the pros and cons of proceeding with that date, and delegating the Kingsdown decision, or delaying the decision until the Kingsdown TRO process is complete.

Either way, it is vital that any decisions are made in an open and legally defensible way. The "yes" and "no" campaigns are both vociferous and it is not possible to keep them both happy! (Even with your suggested scheme!)


Chris Hutt said...

My suggested approach would not please the anti lobby but what reasonable objection could they have to it? How could they justify denying people such a choice?

The management of a voluntary opt-in scheme could aim to be even handed and not treat the opt-ins more favourably than the opt-outs, so leaving the opt-outs with much the same situation that already exists.

Anonymous said...

I imagine they would mention 'thin ends of wedges'.


Chris Hutt said...

Yes it would be the thin end of a wedge, but driven by popular choice rather than central diktat. If in due course the majority choose to opt in to such a scheme, as I'm sure they would, then who has the right to deny the popular will?

Anonymous said...

Parking schemes should be opposed as they nothing more than the privatisation of public space, made more perverse by the beaurocratised job creation that councils love in order to justify their own existence. What we end up with are empty streets in the day, which could otherwise be used, and worse still the probem shifted elswhere. If people find car ownership so much of a problem then perhaps they should consider other modes of transport.

The Bristol Blogger said...

The way forward is for politicians to do what they're elected to do and take decisions and stop trying to outsource unpopular decisions to the public, regional quangos, officers or anybody else.

Chris F said...

The public were consulted. The public made their votes. The majority weren't in favour. Move on.

Chris Hutt said...

But many people do want Residents' Parking. Why should they be denied their rights by those who don't when it is possible for both options to be available to all? Those who are opposed to Residents' Parking Schemes as a voluntary option are opposed to freedom of choice.

Paul said...

Or (and here is a novel idea!) after spending how ever much on the two rounds of consultations, (£100,000's?) actually follow the results. Which were against the scheme.

I am a litte worried by Jon Rogers comments though. Surely it should be:

(1) We would engage....
(2) We would seek views...
(3) We would follow the views...

His last point makes it sound like the Cabinet will do what the Cabinet wants, regardless of results.

Anonymous said...

Maybe my Freedom of Choice would be to open up a 24 hour nightclub on Richmond Park Road?

It would be voluntary to attend so anyone against it would opposed to Freedom of Choice? Both options are available, attend or don't attend.

Freedom of choice is one thing, but when that choice impacts other people lives they must also be given a fair say.

Chris Hutt said...

But in this case it doesn't impact on other people's lives any more than the act of owning a car in the first place. Are you suggesting that no one should be allowed to own a car since it impacts on other people's lives?

Anonymous said...

But in this case it doesn't impact on other people's lives any more than the act of owning a car in the first place.
-Nonsense. It does. The Council is effectively selling off public road to people willing to pay more. Where does it state that one person has more rights over public road, just because it is outside a property they own?

Are you suggesting that no one should be allowed to own a car since it impacts on other people's lives?

Tod said...

Not selling at all. Only renting on a temporary basis. Seems fair enough to me.

Anonymous said...

So the people who don't take up the offer can expect a discount on their tax bill can they?

Nope. Thought not.

Chris Hutt said...

Anon, let's consider this from first principles.

1. The purpose of the highway system has always been to allow the movement of people and goods. The highway is not intended to be used for storage of goods, including vehicles. Such use constitutes an obstruction of the highway which is an offence in law.

2. Nevertheless the movement of people and goods is often restricted by the widespread use of the highway for the storage of motor vehicles. Cyclists and pedestrians in particular suffer restricted access and have their safety compromised as a consequence.

3. Despite the widespread use of the highway for the storage of vehicles and the consequent erosion of the freedom of movement of cyclists and pedestrians, local authorities are loath to upset the owners of the stored vehicles by carrying out their duty to maintain the highway for the purpose intended.

4. The demand for vehicle storage often exceeds the supply, making storage space a valuable commodity. Nevertheless the local authorities rarely seek to realise that value but mostly make the space available free of charge. This is effectively a subsidy to the owners of the stored vehicles who would otherwise have to pay the market rate, which typically might be in the order of £1,000 per annum in many areas.

5. Residents' Parking Schemes as proposed do not attempt to end this subsidy or even to mitigate it. The intention is to give residents exclusive access at certain times in exchange for a very small charge to cover implementation costs. As such the schemes are hugely beneficial to the residents who happen to own motor vehicles.

6. Clearly those who do not own motor vehicles cannot take advantage of this subsidy and are consequently disadvantaged. Bristol City Council, for all its green posturing, seem intent on perpetrating this form of discrimination against non car owners.

7. From the foregoing you will appreciate that both the status quo and the proposed RPS (including my proposed modification) are heavily biased towards the needs of motorists at the expense of the needs of pedestrians, cyclists and non car owners.

Anonymous said...

1. Wrong. Illegal parking constitutes an offense in the law. Legal parking…is well…legal, no matter how you like to dress it up.
2. Agreed. Illegal parking does cause a restriction. Legal parking however, not.
3. See answer #1
4. Just because people do make use of a commodity does not make it a subsidy.
5. You still have not answered the question (ever thought of becoming a politician?) Where does it state that one person has more rights over public road, just because it is outside a property they own/rent?
6. See answer #4
7. Laughable.
I have noticed others have tried to explain the meaning of a subsidy, but you are still unable to grasp this simple idea. I don’t know why, you seem fairly intelligent so will have to presume it’s a case of hidden agenda.

Chris Hutt said...

I'll grant you point 5. Residents have no greater right in law over the highway adjacent to their homes than anyone else, including parking. However common sense would suggest otherwise. Most people would recognise a greater moral claim to be able to park near their homes than anywhere else.

Subsidy is typically a payment made to reduce the cost of a product or service below what it would be if subject only to market forces.

In Bristol's case let's say we have 100,000 on-street parking spaces available which have an average market value of, say, £1,000 each per annum. The council should seek to secure that value (£100 million in total) when making the parking spaces available. Instead they make them available freely, so foregoing the potential income of £100 million. Consequently they must find £100 million by other means, for example by increasing council tax. The council tax payers therefore have to pay £100 million more than would otherwise be necessary. So the council tax payer is massively subsidising the car owner who parks on street.

Of course those figures are very approximate and the market value cannot be known until a market actually operates, but they are in the right order, so we really are talking about a taxpayer subsidy worth tens or even hundreds of millions, which substantially increases Bristol's council tax levels.

Paul said...

Hi Chris,

Morally the Council would also drop this idea after asking the residents it would impact and getting a majority saying ‘thanks, but no thanks’ answer.

With regard to the ‘Subsidy’ you refer to. So if every Bristol taxpaying person has to fill this £100 million gap, surely every Bristol person has just as much right to park where they want? Everyone has contributed a roughly equal amount to parking in the city? (Roughly, because not everyone pays exactly the same amount of Council tax)

Chris Hutt said...

Lots of problems there Paul.

Firstly I would say the moral position is to allow people to choose whether to opt-in to residents parking or not. The majorities against (or for) are very small and may be unrepresentative of the wider population affected, so why not let the people decide for themselves? Notional majorities based on such small response rates don't really have any authority to speak for the majority.

Secondly council tax is paid per household, not per resident (although there is a 25% single person household discount) and many residents do not own cars or do not need to park on street. So there will be cases where individuals who do not even own a car will pay a high level of council tax in order to subsidise others who park several cars on-street and pay relatively little council tax (as part of larger household) or even no council tax at all if in receipt of benefits.

In short council tax is a very unfair and discriminatory way of making people pay for on-street parking. What's more by removing any link between the action of on-street parking and the payment for it it encourages car ownership.

Paul said...

But the people were asked! I'm pretty sure we wouldn't be having this discussion if the couple of % that made it not favourable were the other way! The Council would be ploughing on with the response to any objections ‘Well the majority want it!’ Just because you were wrong in predicting most residents wanted the RPZ doesn’t mean when the answer came back negatively you have try asking the same questions in a slightly different way to get the same end result.

If you want to try and massage figures in favour of your point of view why not look at it this way...

How many households in Cliftonwood and Kingsdown? 10,000 as a ball park figure?

So people were asked do you want a RPZ or do you want to leave things as they are? Surely if people were that keen, that passionate and that desperate for a RPZ they would have responded? I can’t imagine why all these residents who you predicted wanted the RPZ so much wouldn’t have responded? This is after all what they had been crying out for, pleading local Councillors for and going to the media at every opportunity to put forward their case.
So out of 10,000 households...

176+253 = 429 households positively replied to the RPZ. Or just over 4%.

I realise your argument against this will be ‘How do I know what views the people who didn’t respond were?’ The answer is I don’t, no one does. But I do know that if I was in support of something as much as you claim the majority were, I would have returned my forms.

Chris Hutt said...

Paul, the vote in Kingsdown (south of Cotham Road) was marginally in favour but equally lacking in authority due to the low response rate.

You're proposing that a vote against RPS by just 15% of the residents should rule it out as an option for all. I'm saying let the people choose whether to join or not on an individual basis. There's no need for an all or nothing approach since streets can accommodate a mix of RPS and non-RPS parking areas.

If you are right and the majority choose to remain out of the RPS what is the problem? But if the majority choose to opt in, as I believe they would, then the minority remaining out of it may find the situation difficult.

So are you saying the minority interest should have precedence over the majority?

Paul said...

Just because the Council managed to find a majority from a small area doesn’t mean there was a majority overall. Again, this was just another case of massaging the facts. The RPS scheme was being voted on by area... so why break it down into a smaller area just to find a majority? Because of the alter motive to try and push this through regardless and it gives the supporters something to cling to.

You keep saying the majority want it... why?

Where do you get this information from? You thought the majority wanted a PRS, they didn’t. What’s wrong with admitting you were wrong and moving on? This new idea just looks like a rather desperate attempt to allow the minority to get their way and impact the majority.

Cllr Mark Wright said...

Paul, there is a lot of misinformation about the result of the Kingsdown vote being promoted by the "Anti" campaign. This wasn't helped by an extremely poor press release on the results by the Council, which led to an incorrect headline in the Evening Post.

The facts are as follows: The area of consultation north of Cotham Rd was only ever a "opt in" consultation. After the first consultation and the changes made to the scheme, Cllr Neil Harrison was lobbied by residents in Cotham ward that they wanted to be consulted again on the changed (improved) scheme. It was agreed that this would happen on an "opt in" basis, so as not to prejudice the Kingsdown scheme in Cabot ward (otherwise Cllr Alex Woodman and I would have objected to that inclusion, on the grounds that it would make the Kingsdown scheme less likely to be approved.)

This is all in official documents, as you can see here:

And Neil's blog:

This map was first published back in October, as you can see from a blog post then :

So, in summery, Kingsdown voted very narrowly for the scheme. I also know a large number of people in the area are in favour of a scheme in principle (evidenced by the 3:1 majority in favour of the principle at the first round of consultation) but voted against this because aspects about drive access and parking bay suspension costs weren't clear in the final letter.

Cabot Cllrs and local MP still strongly support the scheme, and in the light of the narrow "Yes" vote we will be pushing for the scheme to go ahead.

Paul said...

Hi Mark,

Thanks for the feedback.

I'm still very confused (some would argue easily!) as looking at Bristol Councils own website I still struggle to see where you get the majority for the whole of Kingsdown want the scheme? I’m sure if you burrowed down into individual areas/street you would be able to find groups of people who want the scheme.

Surely the stats that matter are based on the scheme which was voted on which is shown below. There is no mention of above/below Cotham road in the scheme shown so why filter the results based on this boundary?

Kingsdown - Whole area
Total responses 565
* Agree 253 (44.8%)
* Disagree 268 (47.4%)
* Undecided 44 (7.8%)

Previous plans, previous maps and previous schemes are irrelevant.

Cllr Mark Wright said...

Hi Paul,

The "whole Kingsdown" (i.e. Kingsdown + Cotham) result is a synthetic number made from adding the results in the original Kingsdown zone and the Cotham "opt-in" area. It has no meaning. It was always the case that each zone would be judged on its own response.

To say "previous plans {...} are irrelevant" is a bit silly really. Of course they aren't irrelevant - the previous plans are what the council is working to.

The map you show, lining plans had to be drawn up for the Kingsdown zone plus the Cotham extension, in case Cotham decided to opt-in!

Cllr Mark Wright said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Paul said...

The Mark, yes I agree then, the headings on that page are very misleading. Surely it would have been better to call them Cliftonwood/Cotham/Kingswood?

The problem I can see from introducing the scheme in one small individual area, surrounded by areas not wanting the scheme is the problem will be pushed out to these other surrounding areas. These areas will then have no option but to opt into the scheme to correct the increased problem caused by the neighbouring opt in area and so on and so on... I hope you can see that?

The root of the problem is still not being tackled but that discussion is for another time.

Paul said...

Hi Mark,

Sorry to revisit this but I think something still needs to clarified if possible?

These were the plans that residents voted on, one for Cliftonwood and one for Kingsdown.

The November 2009 draft design can be found here and yes, does include 2 separate areas, above and below Cotham Road.

However in the final schemes which were voted on (Kingswood below)

There is absolutely no mention that above and below Cotham Road will be treated as separate areas. The same scheme was sent to residents above and below Cotham road.

So why are results from the final scheme been given in the form of the previous draft designs?

Paul said...

Seems the BEP have now picked up on the story...

stephen holman said...

I must make a point that although I largely agree there are parking problems, Residents Parking Scheme in Clifton Wood, would have left the roads extreely narrow and unfit for goods, delivery and emergancy services to gain access to certain areas. Yes I know by part parking on pavement there is an access problem for push chairs and the disabled but have a Fire Engine unable reach a fire and the potential loss of life that might cause is far more serious.

stephen holman said...

I must make a point that although I largely agree there are parking problems, Residents Parking Scheme in Clifton Wood, would have left the roads extreely narrow and unfit for goods, delivery and emergancy services to gain access to certain areas. Yes I know by part parking on pavement there is an access problem for push chairs and the disabled but have a Fire Engine unable reach a fire and the potential loss of life that might cause is far more serious.