Plan to curb Lancashire's pavement parking problem

Lancashire County Council wants the law changed so that it can tackle the problems caused by pavement parking.

Currently, only the police can take action against drivers who block footpaths – unless there are already parking restrictions in force in the road itself.

Cabinet member for highways Keith Iddon said that he wanted to see the offence of obstructing the highway decriminalised. That would mean the authority’s own parking enforcement teams could issue fixed penalty notices in circumstances where the practice was causing difficulty for pedestrians.

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However, County Cllr Iddon told a meeting of the full council that he did not want to see a blanket ban on pavement parking in Lancashire, as has existed in London since 1974.

Pavement parking is governed by different rules depending on exactly where it occurs and the individual circumstances

“It’s a very important issue, [because] we are a very diverse county. In London, the city has adapted to [the ban] – in Lancashire, we aren’t that fortunate,” he said.

Like many other parts of the country, Lancashire has some streets so narrow that if drivers always had to park flat on the road, other vehicles would not be able to pass – effectively creating parking restrictions where none currently exist.

A parliamentary select committee report into pavement parking last year recommended outlawing it right across England – and the government has said that will carry out a public consultation into the possibility. However, local authorities would be permitted to issue exemptions under the proposal – provided an impact assessment was carried out.

In Preston, one resident says that action cannot come soon enough to force cars off the footways at what she describes as “one of the worst junctions in the city”.

Maria – who did not want her surname published – lives close to the intersection of Blackpool Road, Tulketh Brow and Woodplumpton Road and believes that pavement parkers pose a particular risk in the area.

“People stop in quite stunningly dangerous places – it’s astonishing to see where they will pull up.

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“In some cases, they park fully on the pavement and people are having to walk in the road close to a dangerous junction. If you have a pushchair with you or are in a wheelchair yourself, then you are so vulnerable.

“Sometimes it’s just one car that causes the problem, but other times it’s a combination of them – one parks in one place and then another slightly staggers themselves, while pedestrians are left trying to weave through.

“Occasionally, you’ll say something to them, like ‘Did you have to park there?’ – but you just get abuse in return,” Maria said.

The presence of yellow lines on all approaches to the junction means that the county council already has enforcement powers against drivers who park on the pavement in the area. The police would not be required to get involved to prove any obstruction offence, because the parking restrictions apply to both the road and the pavement.

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County Hall says that, since 1st June, its parking patrols have visited Blackpool Road 113 times and issued 14 tickets, Tulketh Brow on 14 occasions, handing out three tickets, and Woodplumpton Road four times, none of which has resulted in a penalty being issued.

The decriminalisation of highway obstruction, as favoured by the county council, was another of the transport select committee’s recommendations, because parking offences are “not a priority for the police”.

County Cllr Gillian Oliver, who raised the issue at full council after receiving numerous complaints from residents in her Preston South West division, supported the move for shifting power and responsibility for enforcement of pavement parking rules to County Hall.

“It should be a matter for councils, because it is difficult for the police to enforce something which many people probably won’t realise is a criminal offence.

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“However, a change in legislation will take time and so it would be good to see the police and county council to team up to do something in the meantime,” said County Cllr Oliver.

Lancashire Constabulary was approached for comment.

WHAT THE LAW SAYS

The Highway Code states that drivers must not park on the pavement in London and should not do it elsewhere unless signs specifically permit it.

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However, according to the RAC, the use of the phrase “should not” for areas outside the capital introduces a level of discretion for places like Lancashire.

Motorists also need to be aware of a separate rule which makes obstruction of the highway – including footpaths – an offence. Any breach can be enforced only by the police, not traffic wardens.

However, local authority parking patrols can issue fixed penalty notices for pavement parking where it occurs alongside existing restrictions on parking in the road itself. Councils can acquire powers over pavement parking even in areas without on-street restrictions if they issue a traffic regulation order (TRO) covering a particular stretch of road. However, the TRO process is often lengthy and requires public consultation.

The RAC website advises drivers to use “common sense” if they have no option but to park on the pavement.

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“If you are parking along a narrow road, where parking wholly on the road would stop other cars, and particularly emergency vehicles, from getting through, then it is a sensible option to park partially on a pavement, providing there are no parking restrictions and providing you are not blocking a wheelchair user or pram from using the pavement.

“If there are restrictions, or your parking would cause wheelchair users or people with prams to have to walk into the road, then you should find somewhere else to park,” the motoring organisation says.

Driving on the pavement is also against the law – even if it is with the intention of parking – unless it is to access a driveway via a dropped kerb.

MPs CALL FOR ‘URGENT’ SOLUTION TO PAVEMENT PARKING PROBLEMS

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A report by the House of Commons transport select committee last year recommended an outright ban on pavement parking in all areas of England, with certain local exemptions being permitted – something on which the government has since said it will hold a consultation.

Members of the committee welcomed the move, but their report said ministers should move quickly to tackle a problem that has “a considerable impact on people’s lives and their ability to safely leave their homes”.

“We have 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 report concluded.