Local Authority Parking and Traffic Management Operational Advice during Covid-19

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Version 7 Published 13 May 2020

 

Local Authority Parking and Traffic Management Operational Advice for COVID 19 Lockdown Easing (Phase 1)

Introduction

This guidance has been produced jointly by the British Parking Association, London Councils and the Local Government Association to help local authorities develop and implement local plans for lifting any temporary traffic and parking arrangements put in place since the start of the COVID 19 lockdown period. The authors of this advice will keep it under constant review in light of the rapidly changing situation and update and reissue as necessary.

Parking and traffic management is an important public service, which provides benefits for pedestrians, cyclists, motorists and the wider community. Those benefits include maintaining road safety and access to jobs, goods and services. This has perhaps never been more important than now as we have had to respond to unprecedented changing demands and priorities. Local authority action in this area has been widely recognised as making an important contribution to the fight against COVID 19, especially the flexibility provided to our NHS staff, care and other key workers.

Transport is one of the most important factors in ensuring we continue to control the virus and save lives, whilst enabling a phased lifting of the lockdown restrictions. A carefully phased reintroduction of previously relaxed traffic/parking management and enforcement is therefore necessary to help manage a safe and controlled recovery. This is especially true for the return to work and school for many over the coming days and weeks. As people try to avoid public transport, demand for parking will increase and the reintroduction of charges and enforcement may be necessary to ensure priority can be maintained for those who need it most. Road space needs to be maintained for additional walking and cycling too, as well as freight for those essential deliveries and services. It is of course important for parking and traffic management sector to recover too and many authority staff and contractors will be returning to work also.

No two authorities, or even town centres are the same, so local action will be dependent on local circumstances and entirely for each authority to decide what is best for them. The following guidance is intended to provide a framework for those local decisions and help achieve some consistency where possible.

On and Off- Street Enforcement Activities

Managing the supply and demand of parking facilities is a key operational responsibility for authorities and is a vital traffic management tool. It is likely that a phased return to work for certain sectors will lead to an increase in demand for parking places as many people seek alternatives to shared public transport, for their own personal health and safety.  

Authorities should continue to focus their enforcement activities on priority routes and incidence of dangerous, obstructive and anti-social parking. However, with increased demand it is likely that authorities will need to reintroduce enforcement at locations that have previously had some form of relaxation or suspension. It is recommended that authorities prioritise any reintroduction to locations of heightened activity where the lack of controls will have a significant detrimental impact on safety and traffic management.

In areas where enforcement has temporarily been suspended, authorities should initially consider the issuance of Warning Notices, outlining that the vehicle is parked in contravention and may receive a Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) in the future if regulations/controls are not observed. Authorities may wish to consider the use of an alternative waterproof envelope for such Warning Notices to manage this message and help ensure that they are not mistaken for a PCN.  Authorities may also want to utilise the Advisory Parking Notice template created by the BPA (see Appendix A)

Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) should continue to provide help and advice about where people can and cannot park, ensuring that social distancing guidelines are applied and adhered to.

It is likely that with social distancing there may be increased incidents of CEOs not being able to successfully serve the PCN which may lead to an increase in postal Regulation 10 ‘prevention from service’ notices. Authorities need to ensure that they have all of the required evidence on the parking activity in accordance with existing guidance before taking the decision to issue such notices.

In the likelihood of a phased increase in commercial activity, it will become increasingly important for the freight sector to be able to deliver goods and services to shops and businesses. Authorities need to ensure that loading and unloading can take place safely and legally and that the highway is not obstructed by vehicles parked in contravention that could have a negative impact on this activity.

Those local authorities that undertake vehicle removals should continue to only do so if a vehicle is parked dangerously or obstructing traffic flow. Where possible, any vehicle that needs to be removed should be relocated to a safe, lawful position close by rather than removed to the vehicle pound. Removing to a pound should remain a last resort.

Any changes in procedures and parking restrictions should be clearly publicised  on authority websites with a facility to allow the public to make enquiries.  

PCN Case Progression

It is recognised that whilst previous advice had recommended that authorities should hold the progression on PCN cases, part of the recovery process should be to enable people to address and resolve outstanding parking and traffic matters.  Authorities also need to recommence their activities in managing all aspects of road traffic enforcement including the processing of challenges, representations and payments. It is important that outstanding cases do not expire or pass beyond any statutory deadlines. Authorities who have put PCN processing on hold may now wish to start to get cases moving again using the required level of sensitivity to the ongoing COVID 19 situation. This should include progression of PCNs to Notice to Owner (NtOs)/Charge Certificate stages where appropriate. 

Careful consideration should be given to the content of all incoming and outgoing correspondence, making them highly relevant and responsive to the COVID 19 situation. A firm but fair regime of dealing with challenges and formal representations is advised.  There is likely to be an increase in the number of challenges based upon mitigating circumstances relating to COVID19 and authorities should consider showing some discretion where this is highlighted as a factor.

For cases at Charge Certificate stage, authorities who have had cases on hold may also wish to initially re-engage by way of a letter in an attempt to resolve them.   A sample letter attached based upon one used by Derby City Council, at Appendix B, and which has proved very successful, could be used as the basis for initial re-engagement with those who have outstanding PCNs

It is clear that for some authorities a return to regular processing will not be straight forward. Authorities should prioritise cases that are approaching statutory deadlines and be aware that statutory service requirements and timescales still apply. As the restrictions around travelling to work are lifted gradually, it is hoped that back office teams who have been unable to continue processing from home will be in a position to start working again.

The Department for Transport (DfT) have confirmed that electronic processing of DVLA requests using the KADOE system will be processed as usual. They have indicated that any requests that require manual processing may be subject to delay and authorities should be aware of this.

Payments

Authorities should continue to take a common sense and flexible approach towards taking payments and recognise that many people may be struggling financially. 

Recommendations include extending the discount payment periods or providing an offer to put cases on hold to a specific date when the person indicates that they will be able to pay.  Where a motorist has multiple cases to pay, authorities may wish to consider a payment plan or staggering the payments if this will improve the likelihood of resolution.

Debt registration and enforcement

Authorities should consider re-engaging with debt registration process. The Traffic Enforcement Centre have confirmed that they remain open and have the ability to process new registration requests.

For cases already with Enforcement Agents, sympathetic and proportionate ‘compliance stage’ only activities can recommence. This should be limited to appropriate letters, texts and calls and as always give full consideration to any potential vulnerable circumstances but particularly those affected in anyway due to COVID 19. No visits can take place for the foreseeable future and therefore any correspondence should not refer to any future action. Enforcement stage activity will be reviewed by the government departments when, and only when, it is safe to do so and further advice will be given at the appropriate time.

Charging strategies

On and off street charging strategies will play an important part in the recovery process in regulating vehicle movement and therefore re-commencing of charging, where it has been suspended may be necessary.   Local decisions about charging strategies should be made to promote active travel, support social distancing, give priority to NHS, care/key workers as necessary and manage air quality.

Authorities may wish to take a more flexible approach where possible within the bounds of statutory processes. This could include recognising a potential increase in demand for all day worker parking by offering weekly or monthly rates to support the return to work for those who cannot cycle or walk as an alternative to public transport.  Authorities may wish to consider incentivising parking further out from retail and urban centres by making it cheaper and combining it with active travel for the last part of the journey and combine this with higher pricing in central locations.  Central locations may also need to be used to some extent to provide for disabled parking where kerb side space has been reduced to enable social distancing measures. Where charges are being reinstated, please see advice below regarding payment methods.

Social distancing and reducing virus transmission risks

Government guidance on social distancing relevant to transport, parking and the public realm has recently been published and authorities should refer to the relevant parts of this:

Department for Transport guidance:

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-travel-guidance-for-passengers

Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government guidance: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/coronavirus-covid-19-safer-public-places-urban-centres-and-green-spaces.

It is highly likely that authorities will be required to suspend some on street parking to enable them to widen pedestrian areas to support social distancing and/or to put in cycle lanes to support active travel.  Authorities should continue to offer all of their usual forms of payment but should carefully consider risks associated with machines and take the necessary control measures to reduce them.  Cashless and contactless payments can be encouraged but it is important to try not to fuel fear of touching things or disadvantage customers for whom cashless and card payments are not possible. 

Repurposing the Kerb

Many authorities will be taking steps to introduce temporary or experimental traffic orders where possible to re-purpose the kerbside and enable wider pedestrian spaces and cycle lanes. This can be an effective measure in encouraging increased levels of walking and cycling as many people avoid public transport, whilst observing social distancing guidelines. When implementing new schemes, planners need to be aware of the demand for parking services in an area and the impact that a significant reduction in the supply could have on the management of traffic on their highway. Whilst car use is not necessarily encouraged, private transport will be a desired travel mode in the short term.  The reduction in available space for blue badge holders needs to be considered and viable alternatives provided.

It must also be stated that any highway repurposing should not have a negative impact on the ability of freight operators to deliver goods and services. Consideration must be given to facilitating kerbside loading and unloading in a safe and practical way. 

COVID 19 Parking Concessions

Since the introduction of the COVID 19 lockdown restrictions, authorities throughout England have introduced temporary provisions to assist critical key workers to be able to park for free so that they can continue to provide essential services at this challenging time.

Government parking concessions for the NHS, health and social care workers and NHS COVID 19 volunteers still apply as these groups remain the ‘top priority’ for the limited parking available (see next section for further details).   PCNs should not be issued to those vehicles displaying such passes/permits unless parked in an obstructive and/or dangerous manner.

Where local exemptions/permits have been issued to wider groups of workers, it will be necessary to consider reviewing and starting to gradually withdraw these concessions, as traffic and parking demand increases, and capacity begins to be strained.  Withdrawal of permits should be done in a phased manner, well communicated to users and using warning notices for a period of time after the permits have been withdrawn where possible.

Further requests for additional parking concessions for ‘other’ key worker groups are likely to increase as more people return to work and seek to avoid public transport as advised. Requests should be given due consideration and local decisions based on individual merits/circumstances and parking availability. However, it is likely that capacity for free parking will be limited and priority will need to be maintained for NHS, care and emergency workers only. Special consideration for transport workers around transport hubs should also be given. 

Where appropriate other key workers should be sign-posted to locations with the greatest amount of spare parking capacity, including privately operated car parks. The decision on whether this parking should be paid for is for individual authorities (see charging strategies advice above).  Those retaining priority/free parking should continue to be encouraged to park off-street where possible, with on-street as a last resort.

Government Parking Pass and Other Evidence of Entitlement to Parking Concessions

The government’s free parking concessions and supporting parking pass scheme for NHS and health and social care staff and NHS COVID 19 volunteers (critical care workers) will continue to operate until government advises of its withdrawal.

Councils will need to make their frontline teams aware of what the pass looks like and the guidance so they are aware of where holders have been told they can use it.  If you need a copy of the pass please contact [email protected]

If a special COVID 19 permit system for critical care workers had already been set up by your council or other evidence of entitlement had been accepted following previous advice this should just continue, and the pass does not need to replace it.  The guidance for users clarifies this point.

It should be noted that it may not be obvious to identify care workers as they come from a diverse set of organisations within the care industry. Where the Government pass is not being used, this diversity should be taken into account and on street enforcement officers asked to look closely and record any evidence placed in windscreens.

NHS_Freeparking.co.uk

To help deal with enquiries about where concessions for critical health workers apply, BPA and some of its members have developed an online search site www.nhs-freeparking.co.uk which councils can publicise on their own websites and use themselves if they are trying to identify additional free parking facilities in their area. 

Blue Badge enforcement

Acknowledging that local authorities may have to delay processing new Blue Badge applications and reapplications, and may also have an existing backlog of current applications, the UK and devolved governments and local government associations are advising that local authority parking teams should not issue Penalty Charge Notices to citizens using Blue Badges with an expiry date of 1 January 2020 onwards. This relaxation of enforcement against expired Blue Badges should continue initially until 30 September 2020.  For clarity, the only enforcement suspended is for expired badges, all other enforcement against other types of misuse or parking where blue badge concessions are not valid can continue.

Appendix A – Warning Notice Example

Advisory Parking Notice

You can help your community by parking considerately

While COVID-19 remains prevalent we are issuing advisory notices to draw people’s attention to where parking rules have been broken & to highlight how people can help their community by parking considerately.

We appreciate we don’t know the reasons why, but your vehicle is parked in breach of the Traffic Management Act 2004/Road Traffic Act 1991 (delete as appropriate) and local Traffic Regulation Orders.  These regulations are there primarily to keep your community safe and free from hazards and obstruction caused by parked vehicles and to protect some spaces for specific road users.  At this time, ensuring routes are kept clear, spaces needed for critical workers & residents are protected and that people are not negatively affected by inconsiderate parking is especially important.

Please ensure you move your vehicle immediately so that you are parking in a permitted place and with consideration to others. 

We do not wish to need to take enforcement action at this time, but we continue to have a responsibility to local communities in maintaining control of parking.  If your vehicle is seen repeatedly parking in this way you may be issued with a Penalty Charge Notice. 

Thank you for your assistance and cooperation.

(name of council) Parking Services.

 

If you need help with finding somewhere to park during the COVID 19 emergency period please: (use one or both of the following & adapt if necessary):

 

contact us at (e-mail/phone number) and we will do our best to direct you to somewhere safe and convenient.

 

visit our website parking pages where you will find information about available places to park and special permit schemes in operation  www.xxxx.co.uk

 

 

Appendix B – Example Re-Engagement Letter Post Charge Certificate Based Upon One Used By Derby City Council

 

PENALTY CHARGE NOTICE NUMBER:                               «Notice_Number»

DATE OF ISSUE:                                                                       «Notice_Contravention_Date»

VEHICLE REGISTRATION NUMBER:                                   «Notice_VRM»

LOCATION OF CONTRAVENTION:                                       «Notice_Issue_Location»

 

Firstly, we hope you are keeping well and staying safe during this exceptionally challenging time.

As a result of the COVID 19 situation, the Council have taken the decision to write to customers who have outstanding Penalty Charge Notices with an offer to help them during this period of uncertainty.  Our records show that you currently have the above outstanding Penalty Charge Notice (PCN).  In light of this difficult situation, we are offering the following options to you with regards to making payment;

Option 1) Pay the reduced amount

Ordinarily the reduced amount can only be paid within 14 days of receiving the PCN. Given the exceptional circumstances we are faced with, the Council is willing to reduce all PCNs which are not with the Enforcement Agents back to the reduced amount to help.

Option 2) Promise to pay

If you cannot afford to pay what you owe at this moment in time but you know you will be able to within the next 28 days, you can request to pay on a certain date.  Please provide the date by which you will be able to make your payment and we will contact you on that date to take payment.

Option 3) Putting your case on hold

If you cannot afford to pay at all during this current period, please let us know so we can discuss this further with you.

Option 4) If your case is already with the enforcement agents

Please e-mail us with your position and proposal about settling the debt and the Council will consider reducing the amount owed to reduce the financial burden on you.  If you already have an arrangement with the enforcement agents, you should keep that arrangement up to date to prevent the possibility of further action.  If you are unable to keep up with your arrangement with the enforcement agents, please contact them directly.

If you want to take advantage of any of these options please send an email  to [email protected] with your vehicle details and your PCN reference number and state which option you would like to take. You will then receive a response from us when we have processed your request.

Yours sincerely

Parking Services Team

 

Example of Warning Notice envelope