The extent and impacts of pavement parking affect many communities. People with mobility difficulties or visual impairments and people who care for others are particular groups who are adversely affected by pavement parking. Action from the Government to tackle the problem of pavement parking has been slow and has not improved people’s day-to-day lives.
Pavement—as opposed to ‘on-street’—parking happens when a vehicle is partially or wholly parked on the pavement or footpath. It is not a criminal offence to park on the pavement—apart from Heavy Goods Vehicles—however it is a criminal offence to drive on to the pavement, whether there is an intention to park or not.
In 2015 the UK Government promised to look into the issue of pavement parking in England. It ran consultations and roundtables and held internal reviews, but this has not led to any actions that have made a difference to the public’s experience of pavement parking. The Government needs to draw conclusions rapidly from the work it has undertaken, publish its proposals and take action.
Pavement parking can have a considerable impact on people’s lives and their ability to safely leave their homes. The committee has received evidence from people with both visual and mobility impairments, and those who care for others—including children—about how they are affected by pavement parking. People are at risk of social isolation if they feel unable to leave their homes safely or are physically prevented from doing so. While pavement parking can be a necessity in some areas, it should not be allowed to happen where it has a significant adverse impact on people’s lives.
The committee is deeply concerned about the Government’s failure to act on this issue, despite long-standing promises to do so. The committee appreciates that this is a thorny problem that may be difficult to resolve to the satisfaction of all, but the Government’s inaction has left communities blighted by unsightly and obstructive pavement parking and individuals afraid or unable to leave their homes or safely navigate the streets. Scotland is currently legislating for a national ban, while London took action to tackle this issue forty-five years ago. The Government must act to improve the situation in the rest of England and it must do so quickly.
Some people are unaware that driving on the pavement is illegal. Some people are not aware of the detrimental effect pavement parking can have. It is the responsibility of the Government to run an awareness campaign around the illegality of driving on the pavement and the negative impacts of pavement parking.
Traffic Regulation Orders (TROs) are a way that local authorities can tackle congestion, manage traffic flows and restrict parking, including pavement parking. Currently there is a legal requirement to advertise any TRO in a local print newspaper. Newspaper advertising may not be effective in spreading this information widely and is costly for a local authority. The Government should remove the onerous requirement of newspaper advertising from the TRO process. The committee recognises the importance of providing support for local newspapers but, if the Government wishes to do this, it should be done directly, not indirectly through the TRO process. However, it is vital that people are aware of proposed TROs and the local authority must put in place effective mechanisms for consulting with their local communities.
Enforcement of the law is the most effective deterrent against pavement parking. It is not always clear who is responsible for taking enforcement action when a vehicle is parked on the pavement, as it depends on the circumstances. The committee encourages the Government to produce good practice guidance for local authorities and police forces on enforcement, and publicise who is responsible for enforcing which offences to the public.
The police can fine people for obstruction of the highway, which includes cars parked on the pavement that impede pedestrians. Currently there is not a clear legal definition of obstruction as it is not an easy thing to define in law. The police have priorities about what they enforce. Obstructive pavement parking is not a high police priority. Obstructive parking could be enforced by local authorities, in most cases they already have parking enforcement staff in place and want to enforce. The committee recommends that a new civil offence of obstructive pavement parking is created, and enforcement become the responsibility of local authorities.
The committee recommends that in the long term a ban on pavement parking is put in place across England, outside London, with a new process for exempting areas from the ban that is not as expensive or complicated as the current TRO process. The committee recognises that this is not something that can happen quickly, and so recommend a full consultation with local authorities about how to make this process easier and cheaper.