The County Highways Authority recently claimed that pavement parking per se is illegal in this Borough. This is factually incorrect which is a bit of a worry given their role as the ultimate arbiters on road safety matters. There is in fact no national prohibition against on-street or ‘pavement parking’ except in relation to heavy commercial vehicles. London where all pavement parking is deemed illegal is dealt with under separate legislation.

This said, the Department for Transport (DfT) has announced that it is considering an overhaul of traffic laws to prevent vehicles from blocking paths and causing difficulties for wheelchair users, people with pushchairs and blind pedestrians. The move would bring the rest of England into line with London, which has had an all-out ban on pavement parking for more than 40 years. Some local councils have long pushed for the change, saying it was a “nonsense” that those outside London were treated differently.

However, Edmund King, president of the AA, opposes a total ban. “There are some streets that are so narrow that if cars park on both sides it wouldn’t allow emergency vehicles or bin lorries to get through. We would be concerned if there was a blanket ban because it is clearly possible in some areas to park on the pavement while still allowing room for pushchairs or people in wheelchairs to pass.” (The Times 4th April).

We shouldn’t be too excited about this as similar parking overhauls have been attempted before in 1974, 1979 and 1986 and, rather like caps on the funding of health and social care, proved to be too difficult and may be found parked somewhere in the long grass. The most recent government action came in 2011 when the DfT wrote to councils “prompting them to use their powers to prevent parking on the pavement where it is a problem”, and giving all councils in England permission to use signs to indicate a local on-street/pavement parking ban without the need for special signs authorisation from the Department each time they wanted to put a pavement parking ban in place.

Current government guidance also encourages all local authorities to take alternative non-legislative measures to discourage pavement parking. This includes suggestions such as guardrails, the planting of trees and the placement of bollards on pavements. Such physical measures, whilst perhaps costly in the first instance, have the advantage of being self-policing and self-enforcing. (This said, it’s fair to say that the recently installed bollards in Green Street (pictured) have had a mixed reception).

Nevertheless, whilst not of itself illegal, if pavement-parked vehicles cause unlawful obstruction an offence under the 1988 Road Traffic Act will have been committed. The main point required to prove an offence of unlawful obstruction of the pavement is that the obstruction is actual and not merely perceived. Consequently, somebody must have made a formal complaint; or the police themselves must witness the actual inconvenience to a pedestrian in order for them to take action.

John Hirsh, Hon. Vice-chairman, LoSRA