Parking law – decriminalisation of parking

Update March 2020

We are expecting CPE (decriminalisation of parking) to start being enforced by the district council from 6 April. Officers will work across the district. We will not know when they will be in any given location, obviously.

2019:    Parking law and issues

Social media, the press and my own  email inbox have all been buzzing about  the recent, very yellow,  repainting of all the enforceable road markings in Woodbridge.
Enforceable road markings are being refreshed across Suffolk in advance of CPE (Civil Parking Enforcement) – the transfer of the enforcement of on road parking from the police to the district councils.
This process has been in operation for a while.
A brief background see below for fuller details):
* Basically,  the government abolished traffic wardens 15 years ago and put their duties in the hands of the police.
* However it has become increasingly clear that adequate police enforcement of selfish and irresponsible parking across the region has not been possible due to the very limited number of feet on the ground. In Woodbridge, people may deliberately  park on double yellows rather than in an official car parks because they know they will have little chance of being  ticketed, and they can park for free. In a car park (off-street parking is run by the District Council) they have to pay, and are ticketed if they overstay.
* Once parking has been decriminalized, enforcement can be put in the hands of  district council ‘revenue protection officers’ who will look much like the old traffic warden and can treat on street parking offences as firmly as they do those in the car parks. And a good thing too!
* However CPE cannot take place until every TRO (traffic regulation order) in Suffolk has been made watertight and enforceable. Thus it is essential that all regulatory road markings are made visible and correct. Which is why many hitherto invisible markings are now made visible.  When all is in place the transfer of CPE to the new East Suffolk District Council will take place.
* The yellow lines in Woodbridge are not new, they replace existing ones for existing TROs.
* The colour will fade. Not too much I hope, or parking restrictions will not be enforceable (the reason they had to be renewed in the first place).
Many of the concerns are on aesthetic or heritage grounds. However there is an element of cherry picking here. Yellow lines are clearly out of place in our medieval town  but they are a necessary ill – along with all the road signs we require, the zebra crossings and the continuing tarmacking of our green spaces for car parking, which also make such a non-medieval impact! Medieval Woodbridge didn’t have tarmacked roads, let alone road signs or markings. Within living memory there was even two way traffic, including buses down the Thoroughfare.
If the people of Woodbridge and its surrounds wish to rely on the petrol-driven engine to the extent they currently do, one has to make provision for preventing cars from taking over. Sad but true

Parking in Suffolk Coastal  – the background

  • Until the passing of the Traffic Management Act 2004, on-street parking and traffic movement violations in Britain were enforced by traffic wardens. After that time the Act passed the responsibility (but not the revenue) to the police. Please note, NOT to the County Councils.  ( Off-street parking violations continued – as they are to this day –  to be enforced by parking attendants employed by local authorities – that is, district and borough councils, and private companies.
  • Many people confuse these with traffic wardens, and do not realise that traffic wardens were abolished 12 years ago by the then Labour govt. They then complain that there are no local traffic wardens on the streets)
  • The police have always been reluctant to enforce onstreet fines because they do not benefit from enforcement: the fines were amassed centrally. Therefore there was never any incentive for the police to add to their workload. This is why, since 2004 we have had parking problems in Woodbridge.
  • The PCC Tim Passmore has laid out a list of priorities for 2016 onward in which parking and speed violations do not figure.
  • However at the moment the police – and nobody else – are responsible for parking and speed violations enforcement and should any damage or difficulty occur because they have failed to do so, this will fall upon the shoulders of the police and nobody else. Whatever priorities the PCC may have laid out, this does not alter the fact that road safety remains a principle requirement of policing
  • However it is clear that the police – underfunded and understaffed and failing to be out on the beat – are not up to the task.
  • The solution is to ‘decriminalise’ parking which means it will pass from the police to the district council (again, may I point out not the County Council) who can employ parking revenue operatives who are pretty much the same as traffic wardens…
  • The rural district councils historically have been very reluctant to step up to the plate.    As Suffolk’s shadow spokesperson for Transport 2009-13 I personally urged Suffolk’s district councils (including Suffolk Coastal District Council) to decriminalise parking (as has happened in Ipswich) on a number of occasions to allow towns like Woodbridge to get their traffic warden back. For years they were very reluctant so to do. The excuse was that it would be very difficult to enforce parking in every nook and corner of a rural district.
  • Fortunately this antediluvian attitude is changing and finally Suffolk Coastal District Council are preparing to take over the on-street parking in Suffolk Coastal. (This is only fair considering the amount they make from the carparks in Woodbridge for example. )The process of decriminalisation will, however, take a couple of years, because in order to decriminalise parking in the district, SCC will have to ensure that all road markings, signage etc  in Suffolk Coastal are robust.
  • In  the interim the police remain the responsible body for enforcement, whether they want the responsibility or not!

Parking in the Thoroughfare

When looking at the situation of the Thoroughfare’s TRO (Traffic Regulation Order), we it seems to me that some people are under the mistaken impression that:

  1. It is an unusual situation to have a TRO (Traffic Regulation Order) covering a street as we have in the Thoroughfare
  2. that one can pick and choose what bits of the Thoroughfare TRO they need follow
  3. that in order to change the TRO all that needs happen is for people to say ‘I don’t like it’
  4. Most importantly, if nobody alters the Thoroughfare TRO that the current level of non-enforcement will continue.

All of these are incorrect

  • The TRO is not an isolated issue. ALL aspects of traffic restrictions on any road are governed by its TRO (eg lines, signs, who can drive down there, where one can park,  the one way traffic etc.)
  • A TRO is a legal document and confers the powers of enforcement. It is literally not possible to make any changes to a road’s lines, signs, when and where to park etc. a road’s restrictive lines, signs, when and where to park etc.  unless one changes the TRO. (The only exceptions are private roads
  • Because of this, TROs are expensive. It will cost a lot of our (council tax-payers’) money to change the current Thoroughfare TRO (I have had it estimated as being between £10000 and £30,000) so we must be sure it is correct.
  • The Thoroughfare TRO cannot be changed effectively unless we know what are the current requirements (established by questionnaire) and test what works and what does not.  We cannot be sure what is correct in the current TRO until the current terms are tested by being enforced. We can then establish which parts of the current TRO do not work and whether new restrictions should be added/existing ones eased.
  • MOST IMPORTANTLY: We must remind people that if we do not make changes, the current level of non-enforcement will not continue. If nothing happens, the current TRO lines etc will just be repainted and all the current regulations will be enforced as they currently stand by SCDC when it takes over parking from the police. They cannot cherrypick and will need to maximise revenue. As the TRO is significantly out of date this is not a realistic option.

It is therefore in residents’/traders’ interests to work together to ensure an amended TRO reflects what is required by everybody

Caroline Page, LibDem County Councillor for Woodbridge