Continuing the series in which our Clinic experts provide a guide to those thorny issues that can trip up the unwary. This week, David Fleming on residents’ power We have heard talk that the local council might introduce a parking scheme in our street. Do we have any say over it? Under the RoadTraffic Regulation Act 1984, local authorities have power to introduce parking schemes. This includes the right to introduce so-called “controlled parking zones” where residents can be charged to park. In deciding whether to introduce a scheme, the local authority must take into account the need to maintain the free movement of traffic, the need for maintaining reasonable access to premises and the availability of off-street parking. And the residents? No one has been clamouring for a parking scheme and we suspect the council is motivated by the money it will raise. In a case decided in 1995 (where residents challenged the implementation of a parking scheme), the court made it clear that it was not legitimate for the local authority to introduce a scheme to raise revenue and that there must be effective and fair consultation. This means that consultation must take place while the proposal is still at a formative stage; those consulted must be provided with information which is accurate and sufficient to enable them to make a meaningful response; they must be given adequate time to do so; there must be adequate time for their responses to be considered; the consulting party must consider the responses with a receptive mind and in a conscientious manner when reaching its decision. How do we keep track of the consultation process? The consultation procedures vary from place to place but full information should be obtainable on your local authority’s website. It is always possible for details of the scheme to be varied, and invariably charges will be increased from time to time. Theoretically it would be possible for an authority to revoke a parking scheme, but I cannot imagine that this ever happens. Accordingly, the time to object – if you wish to do so – is at the consultation stage when the introduction of such a scheme is in contemplation. Conversely, if there is no scheme and the residents would like one, they should lobby their local councillor to raise the issue. What about other planning issues to do with our street? Different statutory provisions apply to other matters which may concern residents, such as speed limits and lighting. If you have any concerns in these areas, the local authority may be able to assist but central government bodies (such as the Highways Agency) are likely to be involved.
David Fleming is head of property litigation at William Heath & Co.