Pickles’ new guidance to challenge ‘anti-car dogma’ by Mark Moran (UK)

Published in Transport Xtra, the UK specialized transport planning magazine.

Pickles’ new guidance to challenge ‘anti-car dogma’

Mark Moran

Local authorities should ensure that town centres become more car-friendly environments, with more parking spaces and fewer speed humps, local government secretary Eric Pickles has said.

New planning guidance from Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG), launched on 28 August, calls on councils to ensure parking charges do not undermine local economies. The DCLG stated: “The quality of parking in town centres is important; it should be convenient, safe and secure. Parking charges should be appropriate and not undermine the vitality of town centres and local shops, and parking enforcement should be proportionate.”

Pickles accuses heavy-handed parking policies and “over-zealous” enforcement of driving shoppers away from the High Street and towards both internet retailers and out-of-town shopping centres. “Draconian Town Hall parking policies and street clutter can make driving into town centres unnecessarily stressful and actually create more congestion because of lack of places to park,” said Pickles.

“Anti-car measures are driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out of town superstores, taking their custom with them. Over-zealous parking wardens are inflicting real damage on local economies and have given many towns and councils a bad name. Town Halls need to ditch their anti-car dogma. Making it easier to park will help support local shops, local jobs and tourism.”

This is Pickles’ fourth major announcement on parking within as many weeks. He has variously suggested allowing drivers to park on double yellow lines when popping into High Street stores and accused local authorities of both generating excessive profits from parking and making it difficult for people to rent out their driveways using “matching” websites.

The new guidance forms part of an online guide that will replace 7,000 pages of Planning Practice Guidance (PPG) documents.
The revised guidance also advises councils to improve the design of the street-scene, ensuring street furniture such as lighting, railings, litter bins, paving and fountains are “sensitively placed”. The DCLG statesd: “Unnecessary clutter and physical constraints such as parking bollards and road humps should be avoided.”

However, the Local Government Association (LGA) said councils were already focused on boosting town centres. “Councils work hard to try and boost trade and keep High Streets vibrant through parking incentives such as free short-stay, cheaper evenings and free Sundays,” an LGA spokesperson told the BBC.

“Creating more spaces in town and city centres where there is no room for them is simply not the way to draw more shoppers to the High Street. Parking measures help avoid congestion in our high streets. In fact, the government’s own figures show charges in England are falling in real terms while councils invest any revenue back into transport services like filling potholes and road improvement projects.

“The more the government continues to intervene in this way, the less flexibility local authorities have to react to the individual needs of local shoppers, residents and traders and support local businesses and high streets in their area.”

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