Meeting documents

Tuesday, 19 September 2006


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Division(s): All



Oxford Controlled Parking and Residents’ Parking Zones

Report by Head of Transport


  1. This report gives the results of the recent consultation on the proposal to introduce charges for residents and visitors parking permits in Oxford City. Because the introduction of charges would require changes to existing parking orders the consultation was carried out in conjunction with the publication of the draft amendments to those orders.
  2. Consideration is given to the issues raised by those responding to the consultation. The points made have resulted in the recommendation of significant changes to the advertised charging proposals for visitors parking permits and of commitment to actions that will provide a better, more flexible service for permit holders, reduction of the nuisance caused by car boot sales in the zones around the Kassam stadium, and early reviews of the controlled parking zones with the greatest pressure on the available parking space. The report concludes that nothing in the consultation reveals significant flaws in the case for introducing charges.
  3. The consultation and the draft traffic orders also covered the introduction of a revised permit scheme for issuing discretionary authorisation to contractors’ vehicles to park in permit parking spaces. The report concludes that these new controls be introduced as proposed.
  4. Summary of Consideration of the Issues to Date

  5. Residents and visitors parking permits in Oxford have been free since the first schemes were introduced in the 1970’s. The Executive and then the Cabinet have on three occasions considered charging for parking permits as provided for in the Council’s policy on residents’ parking schemes and as happens in other Oxfordshire towns (21 September 2004; 17 February 2005 and 6 December 2005).
  6. In September 2004, the Executive resolved that it was minded to bring in charges for permits in Oxford but wanted first to clarify if Oxford City Council would be prepared to meet all or some of the cost of operating residents parking schemes bearing in mind it had once done so and the County Council’s policy provision that costs be met by District Councils if they want the permits to be free. Subsequent meetings considered the response from Oxford City Council to this resolution and on 6 December 2005 the Cabinet resolved to confirm the intention, subject to the outcome of consultation, to introduce charges for residents and visitors parking permits and, noting that Oxford City Council were unwilling to contribute to the cost of the schemes, authorised consultation on the charging as proposed.
  7. Policy Background

  8. The Council has a long standing policy first adopted in 1986 and confirmed again on 21 September 2004, that the cost of operating residents permit schemes be recovered by charges for permits, or met by contribution from a District Council, or by a combination of both. The charges would be determined by the particular circumstances of each case.
  9. Charges are made for residents parking schemes in Abingdon and Henley, and are proposed for a new scheme in Bicester. When first introduced into Oxford, the City Council met the cost of the residents parking schemes as envisaged in the County Council’s policy. However, the ending of the City Council’s traffic management agency and the change to civil enforcement has resulted in considerable costs now being borne by the County Council in operating the residents parking schemes contrary to its agreed policy.
  10. The Local Transport Plan (LTP), states in Chapter 4 – Supporting Strategies (page 103); "Controlled Parking Zones (CPZs) in residential areas protect local streets from intrusive long-stay commuter parking. They also have a strategic importance in keeping down the overall level of peak hour traffic. The introduction of a charge to cover the full costs of administration and enforcement would bring the city zones into line with existing zones elsewhere in the county and ensure that existing resources are not deflected away from implementing new necessary zones."
  11. The LTP text goes on to say the County Council will:

    • Accelerate its programme to deliver new CPZs to protect local streets and achieve the strategic management of traffic, especially in the Headington/Marston area;
    • Consult on the introduction of a permit charge to cover costs and limit unrestrained demand.

The Case for Introducing Permit Charges

  1. The case for introducing charges was set out in the report to the Executive on 21 September 2004. Briefly re-stated, the case is as follows:

    • In the interests of fairness, the Council should operate its long-standing policy to charge for permits consistently;
    • The Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 gives Councils the power to charge for parking permits, a power that is widely used across the country. Permit charges made in other historic towns with similar traffic problems and strategies to Oxford are generally higher than proposed here as shown in Annex 1 (download as .xls file), which gives updated research on 79 towns with residents parking schemes;
    • It is recognised that parking permit schemes confer a particular benefit to residents by excluding others and that the benefit has a value based on costs of running the scheme which is the basis for a charge;
    • The existence of a surplus on the Parking Account for Oxford is not a bar to introducing charges for permits, the level of pay-and-display charges being set for traffic management reasons;
    • The proposed permit charges are based on cost recovery for the schemes and, for the higher charges, encouraging some restraint on car ownership in Oxford which has doubled in the past twenty years;
    • Times and circumstances change – a review of the arrangements is entirely reasonable bearing in mind that the situation has changed considerably from that which applied some 30 years ago when controlled parking zones and residents parking schemes were first introduced and that large costs now fall on the County Council in operating residents parking schemes.

The Proposed Permit Charges as Advertised and Consulted on

  1. All zones except those around the Kassam Stadium:
  2. Residents Permits

    £40 a year for each of the first two permits per household in any zone.

    In zones where more than two permits per household can be held – £80 a year for a third permit and £120 a year for a fourth and any further permits.

    Visitors Permits

    60p a permit, to be paid as one amount of £15 for each pack of 25 permits.

    Contractors’ permits

    £15 for a permit valid for one week anywhere in the zone for which it is issued.

    Kassam Stadium Event Day only zones;

    Residents Permits

    £10 a year for each permit

    Visitor Permits

    No charge

    Contractors’ permits

    As above

  3. In all cases refunds would be given for unexpired portions of residents’ permits if they are surrendered during the year they are current, and for unused visitor permits.
  4. Controlled parking zones include the provision for business permit holders and hotel/guest house permit holders to use certain of the designated parking spaces. These permits are already charged for and the draft orders make no changes to these arrangements.
  5. The On-Street Parking Account and the Basis for the Proposed Charges

  6. All expenditure and income relating to on-street parking in Oxford is held in the On-Street Parking Account. The Parking Account for 2005/06 as reported to Cabinet on 21 June 2006 in the Revenue and Capital Outturn Report shows an overall surplus for Oxford City of £931,367. The reason for the surplus is the income from pay-and-display parking. The residents parking zone operations show a loss of £125,724. The figures are similar to those in previous years.
  7. Each year any surplus on the Parking Account is transferred to the On-Street Parking Reserve Account. This Reserve Account is used to fund transport related capital projects and for other transport purposes in accordance with Section 55 of Road Traffic Regulation Act 1984 (as now amended by Section 95 of the Traffic Management Act 2004). This legislation controls the use of any surplus generated by the parking account and means that it cannot be used to support the general revenue budget (other than to repay any past deficit on the parking account that had been met from the general revenue fund). All the surpluses have been used for Oxford transport schemes.
  8. However, the Road Traffic Regulation Act is not a fiscal measure. Its purpose is to secure the expeditious, convenient and safe movement of traffic and the provision of suitable and adequate parking facilities so the potential use of any surplus is not a relevant consideration in deciding whether or not to bring in permit charging.
  9. The basis of the residents’ permit charge proposed in 2004 is the elimination of the deficit on the residents parking operations. The proposed charge of £40 has been checked and confirmed by reworking the calculation using 2005/06 Parking Account figures and more reliable information on current and future permit numbers than was available in 2004. The calculation cannot produce a precise figure because it involves forecasts of as yet unknown circumstances but sensible estimates of various risks can be made and the proposed £40 permit charge lies between the upper and lower limits of the risk evaluation. If the estimates are borne out in practice, the position at the end of 2009 would be a balance of expenditure and income of £480,000.
  10. The charge for third and fourth permits, where allowed, is a judgement of what might provide some restraint in car ownership. A similar pattern of increasing charges as the number of permits goes up is used in some other authorities as shown in Annex 1 (download as .xls file).
  11. The charge for residents parking permits in the four zones around the Kassam stadium is based on a pro-rata rate for the days the scheme operates plus an allowance for the extra costs of signing the zones for each event.
  12. The charge for contractors’ permits is as recommended in the report to the Executive on 6 December 2005 and reflects the typical time spent in dealing with an application for a discretionary permit.
  13. The Consultation Arrangements

  14. The proposals are essentially straightforward being whether there should be charging for permits and if so how much - they do not involve any physical on-street measures. Therefore it was decided to have one consultation stage in conjunction with the publication of the proposals in accordance with the regulatory requirements. The Regulations require draft traffic orders to be available for public inspection throughout the consultation period and beyond. Thus publication of the draft orders does not imply any inevitability that the provisions will be brought in, a decision can always be made not to proceed or to vary the provisions of the order provided they are not substantial changes. Publication of the draft orders at the same time as the general consultation ensured that the full details of the proposals were available to anyone who wanted to look at them and key elements of the details were incorporated into the consultation packs to ensure full, accurate and fair consultation was undertaken.
  15. The consultation period started on 9 June with the advertisement of the draft traffic orders and ended on 20 July. In addition to the necessary street notices, letters and consultation papers were sent to statutory consultees, to Oxford City Council and the parish Councils within the City, and to each household in all of the existing controlled parking zones and the four proposed zones currently being developed, in all, some 25,700 addresses. More details of the consultation and copies of the information sent out are in Annex 2 (download as .pdf file)
  16. A General Assessment of the Consultation Questionnaire Returns

  17. A full report on the consultation results from the questionnaires sent to each household address is provided in Annex 2 (download as .pdf file). Officer comments on all of the issues noted in the report are given in Annex 3 (download as .doc file), which also gives the responses from statutory consultees, from Oxford City Council and from Parish Councils.
  18. All the responses received are in files deposited in the Members’ Resource Centre together with a copy of the database of information recording the responses received.
  19. The consultation responses from households were for the most part considered and gave views whether for or against the proposed charges. The questionnaire ended by asking for general comments and people used this, as well as other spaces on the form, to get over the points they wanted to make. Comments to the Parking Hotline by email or telephone were also recorded and included in the results along with letters both to the Parking Hotline and to Environment and Economy Directorate. The questionnaire was designed to give the reasons that lay behind the proposal and test their views on these. A simple yes/no question would not have given the rationale for the proposals and may not have elicited any information about reactions to these reasons. The questionnaire allowed respondents to disagree with any of the reasons put forward for introducing charges.
  20. Responses from Statutory Consultees and Oxford City Council

  21. The only statutory consultee to respond was Thames Valley Police who had no comments to make on the proposals.
  22. The main themes of Oxford City Council’s objections are;

    • The surplus on the parking account makes it unnecessary and unlawful to make further charges.
    • The residents parking schemes are part of the transport management measures for Oxford and it is unjust for residents to be charged for this.
    • The consultation is not genuine and the Cabinet has pre-determined the decision.

  1. The City Council also wrote to the Chief Executive on 16 August again raising issues on the legality of the proposals because of the surplus on the global on-street parking account for Oxford and that the proposed charges exceed permit costs and suggesting that the matter had been predetermined.
  2. The City Council’s objections are significant issues that must be fully considered but they are not regarded as valid grounds for a legal challenge. The surplus on the parking account is a consideration but it is not a bar to introducing other charges. This is confirmed by leading counsel’s opinion. The critical issue is not the surplus but that the charges are made for valid traffic management reasons. The calculation of the permit charges has been explained in paragraph 16 above. It is agreed that residents parking schemes are part of the overall transport strategy for Oxford but they also provide personal benefits to residents by excluding the general public from parking in that area. As explained above, all decisions so far have been subject to consideration of the consultation results and indeed the consultation has been undertaken as directed by the Cabinet resolution of 6 December 2005.
  3. Household Questionnaire Consultation Results – Numerical Analysis

  4. A total of 5043 questionnaires were returned in time to be included in the analysis given in Annex 2 (download as .pdf file), a return rate of 20% overall. The questionnaires were colour coded so that analysis could be done separately on existing zones, proposed new zones, and the Kassam stadium zones. There was a very similar response rate from each of these sub-sets, the Kassam zones being slightly less than the others at 16%.
  5. The number of responses is less than the number of live permits, a total of 7567 at the last count. The response from the Kassam stadium zones was very close to the permits issued for these zones, 551 returns as compared to 547 permits issued. But the return from the other existing zones is 3423 as compared to 7020 permits issued.
  6. Looking at the existing zones (excluding Kassam zones) and the four proposed new zones;

    • 68% disagreed and 25% agreed that there is a case for charging for permits - there is very little difference between the two sub-sets so these have been combined into one overall figure for this question.
    • Looking at views on whether there should be a consistent policy across the county, slightly more agreed (28% and 31%) than ended up agreeing there was a case for charging, and less disagreed (52%) that there should be a consistent policy than ended up disagreeing with the case for charging.
    • A majority of 54% agreed that residents’ parking schemes benefited them and 31% disagreed in the existing zones. In proposed zones 41% agreed they would benefit from a residents parking scheme and 45% disagreed, the most marked difference between these two sub-sets. But in both cases a lot more people agreed there was a benefit than agreed there was a case for charging.
    • There was not much support for the view that charges would help restrain car ownership, 14% and 12% agreed with 73% and 75% disagreeing.
    • Looking at opinions on the level of charges, there is close correlation between the figures for those who thought the charge too high, that there should be no charge, and that there was not a case for charging. There is good correlation between the figures for those who thought the charges about right and those who agreed there was a case for charging.

  1. Looking at the answers from the Kassam stadium zones;

    • A bigger proportion, 76%, disagreed that there is a case for charging and a smaller proportion, 13%, agreed.
    • On the other questions, a similar pattern of figures to the other zones emerges but much more weighted to the ‘disagree’ end of the range. So again there are more answers agreeing that there should be a consistent policy and that residents parking schemes benefited them than agreeing that there is a case for charging but in smaller numbers than in the other zones. Even fewer agreed that parking charges would restrain car ownership. There is still a reasonable correlation between those who said that the proposed charges were too high, who wanted no charge, and those who disagreed that there is a case for charging but because more people did not answer the questions about the level of charges the figures are more scattered.

  1. A further 51 questionnaires have been returned since Annex 2 (download as .pdf file) was completed; 12 came from the Kassam zones all disagreeing that there was a case for charging; 26 came from existing zones and 13 from proposed new zones – taking these together 24 disagreed there was a case for charging, 2 agreed and 2 had no opinion either way.
  2.   Consultation Results – Issues and Views Expressed

  3. A complete analysis of comments given on questionnaires and in other ways is given in Annex 2 (download as .pdf file). Each of the issues raised is considered and responded to as set out in Annex 3 (download as .doc file).
  4. The big themes are that the proposed charges are not justified in addition to the money paid through general taxation; an objection to paying for parking outside your own house; there should be a guaranteed space in return for a charge; it would be unfair to charge residents when there is free city centre parking in the evenings and on Sundays. There is considerable objection to being charged for schemes which are a response to development pressures of various kinds (e.g. hospitals growth, Brookes University, the football stadium).
  5. There is considerable concern about the social effects of charges for visitor permits (and the scheme generally) and about affordability generally for those on low incomes. There is a particular issue about the nuisance from car boot sales in the zones around the Kassam stadium.
  6. There are valid counter-arguments to the issues raised. But some of the issues justify recommendations to amend the proposals, particularly as regards visitor permits and concerns about the social effects of charging for them as well as comparison with free city centre parking for visitors. Also, if a decision is made to introduce charges for permits this should be accompanied by a response to the consultation that gives residents a return for the income raised by way of a higher level of service than currently provided and by other practical responses to their concerns where this is possible. Suggested actions are set out in the next section of the report.
  7. Returning to the counter-arguments to the main themes mentioned above, it is generally recognised that parking permit schemes confer an extra and particular benefit on the permit holder by excluding non-residents from the area (who have also paid their general taxes). And that this benefit has a value based on the cost of running the permit scheme. The power to charge for permits is clearly intended to be in addition to general taxation and is a power that is widely used across the country as evidenced by Annex 1 (download as .xls file.
  8. Vehicle tax buys the general right to use any highway; it does not buy exclusivity to the road outside your house because in the ordinary way of things it is public highway available to all. Again, the permit scheme provides exclusivity; a benefit not enjoyed by the general public and therefore should be paid for. The reasons why a particular space cannot be reserved were given in the consultation pack (see Annex 2) (download as .pdf file) and repeated in Annex 3 (download as .doc file) – which also comments on views about development pressures and all the other issues that were raised.
  9.   Amendments to the Proposals and Other Actions in Response to the Consultation

  10. Undertake to provide service improvements in permit administration

    • Send reminders that a permit needs renewing
    • Provide a 24 hour visitor permit in place of the present calendar day permit
    • Provide a residents permit for temporary residents here for work reasons (subject to the limit per household) to be charged pro-rata.
    • Allow permits for people with permanent use of a works vehicle
    • Enable a temporary change of registered vehicle if a resident’s vehicle is off the road for a specified time.

Some of these will need further amendments to the traffic orders and therefore, will be subject to further consultation.

  1. Visitor permits

    • Amend the charging proposal to give one batch of 25 permits free and charge for the second batch of 25 permits as a broad equivalent to free city centre parking time.
    • No charge at all for visitor permits to residents aged 70 and over.
    • Allow a discretionary award of 25 additional visitors permits if requested following bereavement of a married or civil partner.

  1. Zones with the greatest pressure on parking spaces
  2. Undertake to complete a review of the West Oxford CPZ and South Oxford CPZ within 18 months including consideration of a reduction in permit allocation to one per household. This cannot guarantee to match permit numbers to spaces in a street or overall, and will be subject to Traffic Order procedures and further consultation.

    Risks and Risk Management

  3. In this case it has been mooted that there may be a legal challenge. There is always a risk of legal challenge to any decision. The officers’ advice, based on leading counsel’s opinion obtained at the outset, is that the County Council is acting lawfully in proposing to introduce charges. There has been extensive consultation. This has been designed to comply with regulatory requirements and provided both key information and the reasons for the proposals. Oxford City Council have asked their legal officers to investigate grounds for a legal challenge and indeed their solicitor has written to the Chief Executive but as explained earlier, the grounds they are looking at are not considered to be valid. The Chief Executive has replied to the City Council to say this and explain why.
  4. Some Oxford City Councillors have said that they would not be prepared to administer paid–for residents parking permits from the Parking Shop that they operate on behalf of the County Council jointly with their Payments Shop on High Street. The County Council pays for this service and there is no requirement to provide it in this way, it has been a convenient voluntary arrangement. Oxford City Council are considering closing their Payments Shop by May next year. Therefore it would be sensible in any case for the County Council to plan for making its own arrangements for the administration of parking permits and other parking services.
  5. Some people might refuse to pay for permits and be subject to enforcement action leading to a more difficult relationship with parking attendants and other parking staff. The suggested actions in response to the consultation could help to ameliorate this view. In most other towns paying for a permit would be a fact of life and it is likely that this would be an initial reaction that would dissipate over time.
  6. The risks of not introducing the proposed charges are that the cost of running residents parking schemes will increase if more are introduced as planned. In other towns in the county payment of charges for permits will be seen as unfair in comparison to Oxford.
  7. Financial and Staff Implications

  8. The financial issues have been addressed earlier in the report.
  9. The transfer of Parking Shop functions to the County Council will require staff to operate it. The payments currently made to the City Council would be available to meet the costs and all costs would be charged to the Parking Account and not impact on the Revenue Budget. None of the Payments Shop staff work exclusively on parking administration but there may be TUPE (Transfer of Understanding (Protection of Employment)) implications in ending the Parking Shop arrangements. It has already been indicated to the City Council that this Council are willing to discuss and agree transfer of some staff in the event that they decide to close their Payments Shop.
  10. Relationship with Local Transport Plan and Corporate Policies

  11. The place of residents’ parking schemes in our Transport policies and the possibility of introducing charges in Oxford are explicitly mentioned in the Local Transport Plan.
  12. The closest connections with the Council’s strategic priorities are with helping the economy by being part of the strategies that control congestion and assist with access and with safeguarding communities by removing parking that would be a nuisance to residents.
  13. Conclusions

  14. The proposal to charge for parking permits should be confirmed with the modifications mentioned in the report.
  15. The issues raised in the consultation must be considered fully and fairly with an open mind but they do not dictate the decision that can be made. The consultation outcome of the majority disagreeing that there is a case for introducing charges is not unexpected given the history of residents parking in Oxford. But the sizeable minority who say there is a case shows that it is not the wholly outrageous proposal it is sometimes represented as. Many residents recognise that there is a parking problem and that they benefit from residents parking but do not want to pay for the solution provided.
  16. Charging for residents parking permits in Oxford would ensure fairness across the county now and in the future.
  17. There is a sound legal basis for introducing charges and it would be a reasonable and unexceptional action as evidenced by comparison with other towns. There is a rational basis for the proposed charges derived from the circumstances in Oxford.
  18. Some significant changes to the proposals for visitor permits are justified in response to the issues raised in consultation, and if charging is agreed there should be a commitment to a better and more flexible level of service for permit administration and to the other actions set out in paragraph 38.
  19. Recommendations

  20. The Cabinet is RECOMMENDED to:
          1. Approve the introduction of charges for parking permits in Oxford as follows;
              1. All zones except the match-day event zones;
              2. Residents parking permits

                £40 a year for each of the first two permits for any household in any zone

                £80 a year for a third permit, £120 a year for a fourth and further permits in zones where Orders allow this.

                Visitors parking permits

                No charge for one batch of 25 permits; £15 for a second batch of 25 permits.

                No charge for visitors permits issued to qualifying residents aged 70 or over.

                Contractors permits

                £15 for a discretionary authorisation to apply for a week in the zone requested.

              3. Match-day event zones (Kassam stadium zones)

            Residents parking permit

            £10 a year for each permit.

          2. Authorise the making of the Traffic Regulation Orders with the necessary modifications for visitors’ permits as set out in (a) above;
          3. Instruct officers to take the necessary actions to improve the service as set out in paragraph 38 noting that in some cases these will be dependent on further amendments to Traffic Regulation Orders;
          4. Instruct officers to review West Oxford and South Oxford Controlled Parking Zones within 18 months and draw up a programme of regular reviews for Oxford Controlled Parking Zones generally;
          5. Instruct officers to make arrangements to enforce parking restrictions around the Kassam stadium when car boot sales are held at the stadium.

Head of Transport

Contact officer: Richard Dix, Assistant Head of Transport, tel 01865 815663

Bckground papers:
Letter from Jeremy Thomas, Oxford City Council to Chief Executive faxed on 17 August 2006
Letter from Chief Executive to Jeremy Thomas, Oxford City Council, dated 25 August 2006

September 2006

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