A briefing to help members understand the process.
5.1 Philip Williams, Lead Commissioner, Communities and Infrastructure and Alexis Newport, Parking Manager, gave a presentation on the GCC Parking Strategy. This strategy included consideration of the Local Transport Plan, the Air Quality and Public Health Strategy, Climate Change considerations, Electric Vehicle infrastructure, as well as the new parking enforcement contract and countywide parking review programme. It was explained that transport system supported all of society including the most vulnerable. In addition transport emissions had a big impact on those demographic groups.
5.2 Through a competitive procurement process, Marston had been commissioned as the new parking enforcement contract. A lot of functions had been brought back in-house. Income exceeded costs in relation to parking enforcement so this was then put back into the transport budget as was a requirement due to the County Council being the Local Highways Authority.
5.3 Members received information on previous parking reviews and were shown a timetable of the parking reviews taking place in 2019 through October 2021. It would take around 5 years to complete all the reviews. Reviews had previously focused on the Cheltenham area and the Council was now on the second phase of reviews which focussed much wider across the county. A priority assessment was undertaken, some areas hadn’t been reviewed in some years and so these were the areas being prioritised.
5.4 At this stage of the review, survey data was being gathered. Members were taken through the scheme up to October 2021 and provided with an update of work to engage with the local members and parish and town councils. Further information was provided on the consultation and collaboration process to ensure good governance. For each TRO proposed due regard would be considered.
5.5 The Resident parking policy was implemented in 2009, which introduced policy surrounding resident and business permits, carers permits (free of charge), visitors vouchers, waivers and hotel permits. All on street charges were increased on 1 April 2019 in order to align with off street charges and the cost of local bus travel. Increased flexibility was introduced through pay per minute.
5.6 New guidance was put in place for Blue Badge holders. It wasn’t clear what impact that would have at this early stage. Members were provided with statistics around blue badges, detailing that 10,427 badges had been issued in between June 2018 and June 2019 with 23 cases of fraud.
5.7 Arle Court park and ride was provided as an example of an innovative system with private and public collaboration with the aim to reduce park and walkers to allow park and ride use. There had been a 20% increase in bus travel. The use of technology was particularly important in this system with an electronic bus validation interface.
5.8 One member asked whether there were still parking permits available for electric vehicles and asked how many had been bought and the charges relating to this. The information would be provided.
ACTION Alexis Newport
5.9 One member suggested that there was a political choice to the where in the budget and how income from parking could be used. He suggested a number of areas where money could be reinvested such as cycling. In response it was explained that the income had to be reinvested into highways, transport or the environment. The net surplus from parking equated to less than one tenth of the overall budget for highways, transport and the environment. Decisions had to be made as part of the budget discussions as to how that income was allocated.
5.10 One member expressed disappointment that parking around schools had not been addressed in the presentation. He outlined that the Police spent a great deal of time solving issues caused by poor parking around schools, including working with the local member. It was explained that a new travel team had been created as well as the launch of the cycle strategy. Work was carried out with all schools in Gloucestershire to give them the materials and support to promote this. Work in this area to help individuals walk or cycle to school could help reduce those parking pressures.
5.11 In response to a question it was recognised that there was frustration around the time it took to change traffic orders. The team that carried out that work had been moved in-house. This was an area of work that required extra resource and this would be under consideration during the budget process. One member commented that in the past the terms and conditions for parking enforcement officers had been an issue. It was explained that staff retention had been a problem in the past and that part of the recommissioning of the contract in this area had focussed on ensuring quality over cost.
5.12 There was some discussion around parking charges with one member questioning whether they would be raised again. He was concerned that families who were not wealthy would be stretched by further increases. In response it was stated that the Council’s policy was to align these charges with off-street charging. Some districts had put their charges up and there was a danger that the current rates were undercutting them. No decisions had been taken but it was suggested that many residents would like to see their schemes reviewed.
5.13 One member asked questions regarding consideration of parking at pre-application stage and gave the example of an upcoming planning consideration for a Cheltenham School. In response it was explained that the officers could not comment regarding that particular application as it was to be considered by the Planning Committee.
5.14 In response to a question it was clarified that for residents wishing to have permits it was helpful to have the support of the community, potentially through a parish or town council.