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Pavement Parking

Volume 836: debated on Wednesday 21 February 2024


Asked by

To ask His Majesty’s Government what plans they have to introduce legislation to prevent pavement parking in England and over what timescale.

My Lords, the Department for Transport received over 15,000 responses to its consultation on this matter. The Government want to take the right step for communities and ensure that local authorities have the appropriate and effective tools at their disposal. We are working through the options and the opportunities for delivering them and, as soon as those matters are certain, we will publish our formal response and announce the way forward.

My Lords, cars on the pavement force pedestrians into the carriageway. That means blind people, wheelchair users and parents with pushchairs—in fact, all pedestrians—are taken off the pavement and put on a very different path: into that of oncoming traffic. In London, there has been a ban on pavement parking for years. If it is good enough for the capital, why not the rest of the country?

My noble friend makes an important point, and I cannot help but agree with him. Pavement parking is a widespread problem and a complex issue. We must ensure that whatever approach is taken works for all road users in the community. We know that our streets belong to us all and understand that parking on the pavements damages them and exposes pedestrians to risk. We have empathy for those members of our society for whom pavement parking poses particular difficulties—those who have sight and mobility impairments, wheelchair users and those with prams and buggies—but we must get this consultation right.

I commend the noble Lord, Lord Holmes, for his Question. There is a major challenge; he and I are fortunate enough to have a degree of assistance in navigating cars and motorcycles on pavements, but others do not. There is an additional hazard as well, which is the new fashion of using electric bikes on pavements. Those are a real danger to all the same cohorts that the noble Lord spelled out. Is it not time to do this now? It would not cost much and might get the Government some popularity.

Again, the noble Lord makes a valid point, which I cannot disagree with. E-scooters are allowed on public roads only as part of the e-scooter rental trials, and private e-scooters can be used only on private land. The use of any e-scooters on the pavement is illegal under current legislation and the Government have no current plans to change this. But at the end of the day, these things have to be enforced and it is a matter, particularly in London, for the Metropolitan Police. It is also for councils to look at and I cannot help but agree with the noble Lord.

My Lords, the Minister looked surprised at the idea of government popularity. Can I encourage him to seize the day, because this is not just about people being forced into the road? It is also about uneven pavements that are left behind after lots of vehicles have parked on them. That is a danger to everyone who walks along the pavement. Does the Minister agree that it should be part of the rights of pedestrians in the 21st century to be able to walk safely down the pavement, and that since the Government’s consultation took place in November 2020, it is high time they got on and did something?

As I pointed out in my first Answer, the department received over 15,000 responses to its consultation, covering tens of thousands of open comments. Every one of these has to be considered fully, giving due regard to the wide range of opinions expressed. Pavement parking is an extremely complex issue. All the options which are recommendations of the Transport Select Committee have supporters and detractors, and significant challenges in their deliverability and effectiveness. Yes, it is time and I am hopeful that in the not-too-distant future we will come out with a report on this.

My Lords, all of us have enormous sympathy with the points the noble Lords, Lord Holmes and Lord Blunkett, have made. Can the Minister just disclose a little more about the options the Government are considering for better enforcement of the law? Will he tell us what they are, so that we might contribute better to this debate?

I cannot disclose them at the moment, but as I said, I am very hopeful that in the not-too-distant future we will be able to come forward with suggestions.

My Lords, one of the reasons for parking on pavements is that cars have got wider. Do the Government have any plans to discriminate between 4x4s—which are wide, long and heavy, and thus also damage pavements—and smaller cars, and encourage the use of the latter in urban areas?

I understand the point the noble Lord makes, but we have no plans to discriminate against 4x4s or wider vehicles at the moment.

My Lords, I remind my noble friend that the government consultation on banning parking on pavements across England ended three years ago. Last month, local authorities, supported by the LGA, again called upon the Government to extend the powers currently held in London to the rest of England, in order to prevent parking on pavements. Does my noble friend accept that, if all councils across England had the same powers as London, that would enable the Government to meet their active travel plans much quicker?

To a certain extent, I accept that. As I have said, the department has received over 15,000 responses, and it takes time. Yes, three years is a long time, and I am very conscious of that.

In fairness, I have only just joined the department. I assure noble Lords that I am taking this very seriously and will do all I can to get a response out as soon as possible.

My Lords, in London I jump for my life from bicycles on the pavement. Can the Minister add bicycles to the list when he is looking at enforcement?

I, too, jump out of the way of bicycles. I take the noble and learned Baroness’s point; it is a serious issue, and enforcement should be more rigorous.

My Lords, we are told in so many areas that we are awaiting the results of consultations and that we do not have the resources to undertake them more speedily. Are the Government exploring the possibility of using AI to do a quick analysis of many of these responses and get the results faster?

I am not sure it is a question of resources; it is a question of analysing the 15,000 responses to the consultation. As for AI, I am afraid I am not an expert in that matter.

My Lords, has my noble friend has a chance to look at the Bill in my name on Road Traffic Act offences involving e-bikes, e-scooters and pedal bikes, which has received its First Reading? In particular, will he look at the provision whereby there should be a review of illegally operated scooters to prevent further accidents and casualties?

I have not yet had the opportunity to look at my noble friend’s proposed legislation, but as soon as I leave here I will go straight back to the department and do so.

My Lords, is it not about time that the Government grasped the nettle and said that roads are for things with big wheels, such as cars, bikes and scooters, and that pavements are for people who are trying to walk? It does not take three years to make a decision like that.

I think I have covered the point the noble Lord raises. I agree that three years is a long time but, in fairness, it takes time to analyse all of this. I undertake to move as fast as I possibly can on this issue.

My Lords, it has been a lot longer than three years. I raised this question at least five years ago with the Minister’s predecessor, and I got a completely anodyne answer. It reflects badly on the Government when a simple situation is called complex that really is not complex at all.

I cannot answer for my predecessor. All I can say is that I am very aware of the issue and undertake to move as quickly as I can.