Update on Friday, March 17: Wealden District and East Sussex County Councils are to work together to look at ways of enforcing on-street parking in the district.
Wealden’s cabinet members agreed the council’s free parking policy would remain in place but they said a ‘do-nothing’ policy when it came to on-street parking enforcement in town centres was no longer acceptable to the public, according to a press release from the council.
Council Leader Bob Standley said it was regrettable that Sussex Police, who are responsible for on-street parking in Wealden, had made it clear they would no longer enforce it, particularly as the amount of council tax precept the police received from Wealden was the second largest in Sussex.
“The cabinet decision means we will look at all the options to enforce illegal on-street parking including whether this is funded by Wealden or the county council,” said Cllr Standley.
“I have been assured by the chief constable that if we chose to decriminalise on-street parking, the police will allocate resources in enforcing on-street parking during the 18 months to two years while it is being set up.
“We will also talk to the towns and parishes on how any decriminalisation is introduced and the levels of enforcement required.
“I would like to make it very clear that I think our current off-street car parks should remain free at the point of delivery. Our high streets have been challenged in the last few years as shopping experiences change, and I don’t think we should be encouraging people to go to Eastbourne or Tunbridge Wells when our high streets are the centres of our communities.”
Wealden District Council has been working with towns and parishes to try to encourage motorists to obey parking rules by using posters and warning tickets. The press release said this had a positive short term effect, but cabinet was not convinced it was a long term solution.
The cabinet meeting on March 8 agreed to work with the county council to examine ways of introducing parking enforcement that were acceptable to the council.
A further report is expected to be discussed by Cabinet later this year.
Members made it clear they did not want to see an option which involved placing parking meters along the high streets of Wealden’s towns. They also pointed out that enforcement measures may result in more car parking in residential areas which could lead to lead to residents requesting residential parking permits in those areas.
You can watch the Cabinet debate on on-street car parking enforcement online here.
Uckfield roadside parking: first step to future enforcement on the cards
Uckfield News story published on March 2: Civil enforcement of on-street parking regulations in Uckfield and the rest of the Wealden District Council area is edging closer.
The district council’s cabinet is due to discuss the problem next week.
Reports for the meeting have been issued by the council and show council leader, Cllr Bob Standley, is recommending colleagues:
- To reaffirm the policy for free off-street car parks (except the three tourist car parks for which charges are currently made);
- Regret the action by Sussex Police to unilaterally suspend on-street parking enforcement;
- To continue collaborative discussions with the Police on the introduction of Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) should the council make that decision;
- To agree that that an option of doing nothing will not address public concerns;
- To say that an option of maintaining the status quo, with the police being responsible for enforcement, but includes joint work with the police and town and parish councils to “nudge” drivers’ behaviour is unlikely to give a long-term solution;
- To continue working with parish and town councils on behavioural change initiatives; and
- To agree to work with East Sussex County Council to enable the introduction and management of Civil Parking Enforcement in a way acceptable to Wealden District Council.
Publication of these papers indicates that the council’s Cabinet is likely to discuss these proposals in public. A notice published by the council earlier in the year indicated the matter could have been discussed in private.
The road to Civil Parking Enforcement is likely to be a long one.
Cllr Standley’s report states independent financial modelling demonstrates it is not possible to cover the set-up costs and on-going costs of CPE without additional money.
Income from penalty charges will not cover the cost.
Extra money will be needed
Informal meetings have taken place with officers from ESCC which indicate that, depending on the extent of enforcement, extra funds would have to be found to pay for CPE.
ESCC have a “model” that they have applied in Eastbourne, Lewes and Hastings which involves charging for on-street parking which could be limited to town centres and proximity to rail stations and could be quite limited in terms of cost to the driver.
Keen to work with Wealden
The report goes on: “However, ESCC officers have indicated that they would be keen to work with us to agree a system that would work well for Wealden District, where members have a stated commitment to not charging for parking including a preference for not charging for on-street parking.
“Experience has shown, especially in locations near to stations, that on-street charges and/or greater enforcement will force drivers to move further out of the centre/away from the station and local residents may ask for a parking permit scheme, which would introduce a limited charge for local residents.
“The process of introducing CPE is a complicated one, which would involve a joint officer team and a timescale of approximately 18 months to two years.
Rother District Council
“One possibility would be to work with [Bexhill-based] Rother District Council (RDC) which might minimise costs.
“Although no decision has been made to implement CPE in RDC, it is known that officers have been asked to work with East Sussex County Council to produce a draft business case to show the implications of Civil Parking Enforcement in Rother.
“Independent estimates of the costs of implementing CPE in Wealden are around £350k, with the on-going annual cost dependent on the model chosen, but provisional estimates for minimal enforcement zones indicate that annual costs would be at least £170k with the possibility of much higher costs.
Admin and enforcement
“There are various models for resourcing CPE including in-house staff or out-sourcing for both administration and enforcement.”
A major issue for the management of the car parking model in Wealden if civil envorcement were introduced is the displacement of cars into the free car parks if charging and/or effective enforcement is introduced for on-street.
“The district council would have to enforce more rigorously due to more pressure on car parks, and it is likely that the long-stay spaces would be filled to capacity early in the day., Cllr Standley’s report states.
It goes on: “There is already evidence of a problem in the Vicarage Lane car park in Hailsham, due to the introduction of charges in the car park of a local supermarket.
“Another implication is the inability to continue to use the ANPR system in Uckfield as CPE uses different legislation which at present precludes the use of automatic cameras, although the Government is being lobbied on this anomaly.”
Plus points/minus points
The document lists the advantages and disadvantages of Implementing CPE
The advantages are:
- The council decides the enforcement required and applied (In agreement with the county council for on-street)
- New traffic schemes can be introduced and enforced
- Better traffic management
- The potential for a single enforcement regime
The disadvantages are:
- There is no going back
- Public and press perception
- Increased function/workload for Council officers and councillors Costly up-front funding required
- Ongoing costs if not offset by on-street charging