Parking in rude health?

There is no doubt that parking is something that permeates all of our lives. As a car driver  -  a shopper, commuter, a visitor to or a user of services such as healthcare, libraries, schools, colleges and universities. Or perhaps simply as a resident, whether living in a block of flats, a town centre housing estate or a detached property with a private driveway. Parking and where we choose or need to park our vehicles is often a daily consideration, and one that we increasingly have to give more thought to.

At the British Parking Association we have recently published a new Five Year Strategy outlining our core objectives. In it, we outline our desire to raise standards in the parking profession and enable our members to provide better services for the motorist. New technology in the sector - including software and apps that help motorists identify and pay for parking, and energy efficient vehicles that are kind to the environment - is becoming more widespread and we hope that by promoting innovation, technology and sustainability we can assist in developing, challenging and moving our sector forward. 

Master Plan

Our annual Master Plan for Parking sets out what we think we must do together to achieve success for the parking profession. The issues outlined within this document are by no means exhaustive and we continue to develop our Master Plan each year as our profession matures. By continuing to work in a consultative and constructive manner, we aim to achieve the best outcome for the motorist and the wider parking profession.

In early July, we launched our 3rd annual Master Plan for Parking coinciding with a reception to welcome our new President. The Master Plan supports our more formal approach of influencing government policy and we are well positioned to work closely with government both at Minister and Officer level. In addition, we want to work more closely with stakeholders to achieve our vision of excellence in parking for all. We have already forged links with the healthcare sector by developing a Charter for Hospital Parking, a new version of which is shortly to be published, which calls for fair and reasonable parking charges to ensure effective management and provision of service for visitors, staff and patients. We encourage all those who manage parking at sites that provide healthcare to sign up to the Charter and over 75 organisations have already done so.

More information can be found on our website at www.britishparking.co.uk/
Charter-for-Hospital-Parking. 

Aging car parks
One of the BPA’s major concerns is the numerous aging car parks which are not properly serviced and maintained. Many are prematurely reaching the end of their useful life and being closed for safety reasons. Ideally, we would like to see owners and operators preparing and implementing a life-care plan and under taking regular structural safety inspections which will identify defects and prompt repairs to minimise the risk of structural failure. The closure of a multi-storey car park can have a detrimental effect on the community which the car park serves and works against the regeneration of town centres.

Clearly, there should be a much greater emphasis on the need to ensure that parking structures are properly inspected and maintained. To facilitate this, proper servicing and maintenance should be seen as a priority cost of the operation and not a call on so-called ‘surplus’ funds generated at the car park.

Of course there is no point in having a structurally sound car park if it does not feel safe. Reducing crime and the fear of crime is another key initiative of the BPA and The Safer Parking Scheme does just that. It is owned by the Association of Chief Police Officers (ACPO), but operated and managed by the BPA on their behalf; all UK Government’s recognise the benefits of the Scheme.

Park Mark
Safer parking status, or Park Mark® as it is known by the public, is awarded to parking facilities that have met the requirements of a risk assessment conducted by the Police. These requirements mean the parking operator has put in place measures that help to deter criminal activity and anti-social behaviour, thereby doing everything they can to prevent crime and reduce the fear of crime in their parking facility.

For customers, using a Park Mark® Safer Parking facility means that the area has been vetted by the Police and has measures in place to create a safe environment. Through the planning processes, our aim is for all new car parks to be required to achieve a Park Mark® award. The BPA would like to see wider public awareness of Park Mark® and are asking Government, police organisations and other agencies involved in the regeneration and creation of safer communities and to become more proactive in promoting the benefits of the Scheme.  Better promotion and public awareness will increase its popularity.

Clamping ban
And whilst we strive to promote safer parking for all, we are also embarking on a major awareness campaign of a different kind. On October 1st this year the landscape for parking on private land in England and Wales will change considerably as a ban on clamping and towing away on private land is introduced.

When the clamping ban comes into effect on October 1st, all forms of vehicle immobilisation and removal will be prohibited in England and Wales unless there is some form of lawful authority to do so. It will be unlawful to take any action that might be considered to be immobilising a vehicle – including the simple action of closing and locking a gate. Vehicles causing an obstruction on private land can be relocated by landowner at his own expense but otherwise will be immune from any kind of action to remove the obstruction; the new law does empower the police to deal with them however and yet at the same time, it is reducing police resources. We don’t see Police putting a high priority on removing obstructions on private land. The positive news for landowners and operators is that, following lobbying by the BPA, the Act introduces a duty on the keeper to identify the driver when enquiries are made by the landowner or his agent. Failing this, the keeper becomes liable for any parking charges due as a result of the breach of contract or trespass.

This will make it easier for parking operators to more effectively manage parking on private land and is fairer to the landowner; The Government indicated that it would not introduce these provisions relating to keeper responsibility until the BPA had established an independent appeals service. This appeals service, to be called ‘Parking on Private Land Appeals’ (or POPLA) is in development and will be established and managed by London Councils, who also provide the adjudication service for local authorities in London.

DVLA access
For the last few years, access to the DVLA’s database – which enables operators to follow up unpaid charges arising from enforcement action on private land - has only been available to members of an accredited trade association (ATA). The BPA provides this through its Approved Operator Scheme (AOS) which has been in place since 2007 and currently has around 160 members. The Scheme has in place a Code of Practice that sets standards of fairness for methods of parking enforcement on private land, including vehicle immobilisation (clamping), ticketing and ANPR technologies.

As part of their lobbying in response to the Protection of Freedoms Act, the BPA called for all organisations involved in parking management and enforcement to be a member of an ATA, such as the AOS. Unfortunately, as the Act stands, this is not part of the legislation and could result in some of the rogue clampers becoming rogue ticketers; giving out tickets, and relying on the motorist to pay the ticket without appeal. Time will tell whether this fear is justified.

The new Act applies to all private land regardless of who owns it which means, as well as retail parks, supermarkets, leisure facilities and the like, so will it affect local authorities and other public organisations who manage parking on their own private land. There are important implications for local authorities and public bodies here and the BPA is working with the UK’s Driver & Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) to better understand their requirements with regard to accessing the DVLA registers in these circumstances.

Because the Protection of Freedoms Act provides for such significant change to the way landowners and their operators/agents carry out that management, the BPA’s Code of Practice for Parking on Private Land is undergoing a significant revision and Code 2102 was published at the end of July to come into effect on 1st October. The Code will set out the key issues around levels of charging and signage, the two issues which motorists and consumers are most concerned about.

As the Act only applies in England and Wales, the BPA is continuing to lobby the Scottish Government for the introduction of keeper liability provisions but this will not happen by October. This means that current law and practice will continue in Scotland. Additionally, in Northern Ireland, immobilisation and towing away will continue to be lawful as the Northern Ireland Assembly decided not to adopt the powers contained in the Protection of Freedoms Act. Working across the borders with our partner organisations and members from each of these nations is crucial to our understanding of the issues that are faced nationwide. There is much we can learn as well as being able to inform through shared experience and knowledge.

BPA members are able to tap into a vast array of this knowledge through a variety of events and resources. A variety of special interest groups helps bring together members from specific fields of expertise to discuss and debate the latest topics and our regional network, covering England, Scotland, Wales and Ireland, enabled the BPA and its members to come together to impart and garner information that is helpful and often vital to their organisations.

Healthcare special interest group
The next meeting of our Healthcare Special Interest Group will take place on November 28th 2012. Please check the BPA website for further details on venue, timings and agenda. If you are interested in attending or would like to find out more about the work of the BPA, please contact Alison Tooze, Events and Membership Manager.

Further information
For more information visit www.britishparking.co.uk

 

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