A RAFT of changes to the Residents’ Parking Permit scheme is being proposed following a review of the operation.
A Task & Finish group was established in June 2016 to take an in-depth look at parking pressures in the town and the obvious impact on local residents. Reading’s Residents Parking Scheme is now 40 years old and the cross-party group looked at how it currently works and how it could continue to operate in the future.
A number of recommendations are now being made, including the introduction of a charge for the first parking permit, expanding the areas which could be considered for inclusion in the scheme and a tightening of the eligibility of applicants.
There could also be a number of improvements for permit holders, such as upgraded IT to allow residents to manage their parking permit requirements online, improved enforcement of permit zones and more flexible visitor permits.
The proposals are being reported to the Traffic Management Sub-Committee (TMSC) on 12th January, who will in turn be asked to recommend the changes to the council’s Policy Committee for consideration four days later (16th January).
Unlike many other local authority areas, residents in Reading have never been asked to pay for their first parking permit since the scheme was introduced in 1976. The recommendation is that a first permit charge should now be considered to cover the costs of running and enforcing the scheme.
Savings totalling £65 million have been made by Reading Borough Council since 2011, due to unprecedented cuts in Government funding and increased demands on services. A further £42 million in savings need to be identified by 2020.
Most other local authorities who run residents’ parking schemes – including West Berkshire, Wokingham and Slough – already charge for a first permit.
Members are being asked to consider a number of charging options for the price of a first permit, ranging from £25 to £50. The potential income generated from the charges for first and second permits range from £357,750 to £552,360, depending on the option chosen. A new set of charges are also being proposed for a range of discretionary permits which are also currently free.
Other options to be considered are changing the rules for permit allocations to schools so they are dealt with on a case by case basis, stricter controls on proof of vehicle ownership and more discretion for households in newly created permit zones.
Improvements could include an upgraded online permit application process, increased parking attendance presence in permit zones, a new tool to report illegal vehicle parking, renewal of visitor permits without the need to re-apply and online booking of visitor permits by session rather than AM/PM.
Councillor Tony Jones, who led the cross party Task & Finish Group, said:
“A lot has changed since Reading’s Residents’ Parking Permit scheme was first introduced 40 years ago. As demand for parking continues to grow, more and more households are asking for their streets to be included in residents’ permit zones to allow them to park near to their homes.
“The level of demand means it is no longer sustainable to issue first vehicle permits free of charge, which is why we are recommending a charge is introduced to cover enforcement and administration costs. This would bring Reading into line with neighbouring councils like West Berkshire, Wokingham and Slough, and London boroughs which face similar pressures on limited parking spaces.
“The review has also identified a number of other areas where changes could be made, including expanding the areas which could be considered for inclusion, making it easier for residents to manage their parking permit requirements online, improved enforcement of permit zones and more flexibility with visitor permits and permit allocations for local schools.
“I’d like to thank every resident who took the time to contact me as part of the scrutiny process, and fellow councillors for their input into the recommendations which will now go forward for consideration.”
Cllr Tony Page, Reading’s Lead Member for Strategic Environment, Planning and Transport, and Chair of the Traffic Management Sub-Committee, said:
“There were more than 26,000 permits issued in Reading last year and we know that demand will continue to increase with more houses and former offices being converted into flats.
“The residents parking scheme was first introduced in 1976. While there have been a number of changes to it over the years, this important piece of scrutiny was long overdue in light of the increasing demands on limited parking spaces in Reading.
“I’d like to thank Councillor Jones and the Task and Finish Group for the work they have put into this piece of scrutiny. The recommendations include a number of changes which, if approved, will result in a more effective and fairer residents parking scheme.”
Members of the Traffic Management Sub Committee will be asked to recommend to Policy Committee, meeting on 16th January, that a charge be introduced for the first permit and a number of discretionary permits.
If approved at Policy Committee, the charges could be introduced from 1st April 2017 for new permits issued, and would apply to existing permits on subsequent renewal dates.
The full Residents Parking Scheme report (Item 6) can be found at: http://www.reading.gov.uk/article/9637/Traffic-Management-Sub-Committee-12-JAN-2017