THE CABINET MEMBER – COUNCILLOR GARETH GRIFFITH
To update the Committee on the progress to date in terms of managing vehicles and powers in relation to motorists who park illegally.
To accept the report and note the observations received.
An update was presented by the Head of the Environment Department on the progress to date on the Task Group recommendations. The committee was reminded that the Task Group was established in July 2019 to undertake a comprehensive review of the current operational parking strategy and consider its suitability and relevance to the Council's requirements and the requirements of its communities today. It was explained that reviewing the parking arrangements across the County was also inevitable in terms of financial sustainability and the authority’s budgets to ensure that our practical management arrangements are effective and efficient. It was added that a comprehensive report was submitted to the Communities Scrutiny Committee in December 2020, proposing innovative and appropriate recommendations for solving some of the issues relating to parking. A final report was presented to the Cabinet in February 2021, and the following was approved:
· Adopt a new Parking Fees Structure that will ensure consistency across the County
· Review the parking proposal over the Christmas period
· No changes to the Blue Badge Scheme
· No changes to the Resident Parking Scheme
· Strengthen the Parking Enforcement Team
It was confirmed that these recommendations had been implemented.
As a result of the pandemic restrictions, it was recognised that a number of issues had a considerable impact on the County's communities in the context of parking. A further update was given on the work undertaken to respond to two specific areas, namely management of motorhomes and powers to deal with motorists who park illegally.
In the context of motorhomes, it was explained, in response to a number of complaints about motorhomes parking in unsuitable locations and the lack of control over these vehicles in the County, that extensive work had been undertaken jointly with the Economy Department to try and identify the implications of the increase in motorhome use (due to overseas travel restrictions) and the impact within the County. Caravan site operators in Gwynedd, the motorhome sector as well as the public and communities across the County were consulted via a questionnaire and it was reported that the response had been very positive and highlighted the need for measures to better manage the motorhome sector in the County.
Following the decision made by Cabinet in November 2021, a pilot scheme to develop parking spaces for motorhomes in the Council's car parks was adopted to encourage the use of town centres and reduce the density of motorhomes who use unsuitable parking places. It was added that a Project Board had been established to proceed with the work and planning applications would need to be submitted to adapt the car parks in question.
It was explained that in the context of adopting powers to tow vehicles away, that the system had come into force as a result of parking problems across the County, particularly in the Llyn Ogwen and Pen y Pas areas. It was considered that a fine of £35 was not a sufficient deterrent, and therefore a scheme to remove vehicles was implemented if they did not conform to the parking requirements. Although the plan had been developed with the cooperation of the Police, it was reported that the Council now had powers to act and were collaborating with Gwalia Garage, Caeathro. It was noted that it was intended to present an update on the system as the scheme matured.
Thanks were expressed for the report.
During the discussion, the following observations were submitted by members:-
· The response to the parking problems was to be welcomed.
· That offering a provision in Council car parks created competition with the County's caravan sites.
· Need to consider the proximity of the car parks to homes.
· The car parks would not be supervised - this could lead to antisocial behaviour.
· Who would dispose of waste and sewage?
· How was it possible to differentiate between overnight parking and overnight camping? The difference had to be highlighted if restrictions were to be implemented.
· Would lorry drivers (who have to take a rest break) be controlled in the same way? This could cause problems to hauliers who provide produce to local businesses.
· A clear definition was required for motorhomes, camper vans and folding campers.
· Wales appeared to be an 'unfriendly' country to motorhome users.
· Space had to be made for motorhomes.
· There was a suggestion that some motorhome owners avoid paying for a pitch on purposeful caravan sites although there was space for them.
· Gwynedd is a fairly sizeable County and therefore the parking requirements of each community were different - it was difficult to get arrangements that suit every area.
· Request to re-mark car parks as some bays were too narrow for cars.
· Suggestion to reduce the number of bus bays in car parks - this would release more space for cars.
· Complex signage - some offered a 24 hour ticket but there was a different sign stating no overnight stays.
· Llandanwg Car Park required attention - bay lines were unclear, signs worn and fading.
· Several good matters had been implemented as a result of the review.
In response to a comment that a fine of £35 was insufficient to prevent illegal car parking, it was noted that fines were set nationally, however, enquiries had been made regarding the use of different fines as a means of improving compliance. It was reported, e.g., that the towing scheme, collaboration with the Trunkroads Department and introducing double yellow lines in the Ogwen area had improved the situation on the Gwynedd side, however, Conwy had not adopted parking restrictions. It was added that it was too early to measure the success of the towing scheme, however, better compliance had been seen already.
In response to the observations about motorhomes, it was noted that it would be possible to share completed research with the members. It was accepted that car parking locations needed to be considered carefully and the suitability of the site was important. It was added that matters such as the impact on amenities, visual and flooding impacts would be considered and every application would have to go through the planning process. It was also noted that a pilot scheme would be a means to see and evidence what was acceptable.
In response to a question regarding the need for pay and display machines to accept cards and cash across the County, it was noted that there had been issues with some machines that only accepted cards due to a lack of signal, however, every car park offered payment by mobile phone. It was added that a payment (via an app) by phone offered considerable benefits and had been extremely successful. It was noted that the provision would improve, by upgrading the payment machines to include a facility to take card payments.
In response to a comment regarding a request by a member of the public (via the Council's Vice-chair) for the Council to consider presenting short periods for visitors to Hafan Iechyd or allocate specific bays within the car park, it was noted that the matter was receiving attention and direct discussion had been undertaken with the enquirer.
In response to an observation regarding a request for enforcement officers to use discretion when imposing a fine by encouraging drivers to 'move on' or 'avoid over-staying', it was noted that some parking situations were difficult to manage, however, the parking restrictions had been set for all - local or otherwise. It was added that the officers considered some discretion when unloading, loading and general road safety, and that income creation was not the main driver here. The priority was to keep roads safe and to be consistent and fair to all. It was noted that enforcement work most often occurred during the day, but was later on at some car parks where there was 24 hour parking. There was a need to ensure officers' safety.
In response to an observation, in the context of electric charging points, it was noted that capital funding had been earmarked and grants had been received to fund the installation of electric charging points. It was explained that there had been a delay as a result of the pandemic and infrastructure matters, e.g. the need for an electricity sub-station in Dolgellau. It was noted that the work of installing the provision would be implemented during next year.
In response to a comment regarding preventing motorhomes from parking overnight in lay-bys and the need to install signage to highlight this, it was noted that the matter was complex as there were several bye-laws to be considered if the matter was to be resolved. It was added that the Service had considered legal counsel. It was emphasised that there would be no short-term solution.
To accept the update, noting the observations received.