North Yorkshire County Council will shortly review its approach to funding for Residential Parking Schemes in the county. It is timely, therefore, to use this month’s column to summarise current parking arrangements in Harrogate and to set out where changes may be made.
The provision of good, accessible parking is important for Harrogate because local retail, hospitality and service businesses rely upon customers who visit by car.
Off-street car parks are owned by Harrogate Borough Council. There are three multi-storey and seven surface level facilities, with varying opening times and ticket prices. For most of the year, off-street parking spaces are readily available.
In many cases, they offer safe, CCTV-monitored spaces for short and long-stay parking.
On-street parking is controlled by North Yorkshire County Council. In Harrogate town centre there are 915 Pay and Display spaces. Close to the town centre there are approximately 3,600 free parking spaces in Disc Zones for periods up to four hours.
Parking restrictions in the Pay and Display and Disc Parking zones are enforced by Civil Enforcement Officers, who issue tickets when drivers fail to display a valid ticket or disc, or park beyond the time paid for, or displayed on their disc.
These arrangements work well for the town centre, encouraging a regular turnover of premium spaces.
The supply of parking permits to town centre residents, who do not have a parking space on their property, is limited to ensure spaces remain for visitors.
There is a growing problem associated with parking in unrestricted residential areas of the town beyond the P&D and Disc Zones. The Cold Bath Road area, the Duchy estate, the Saints estate, and residential streets to the south of the Stray are usually full of parked cars during the working day from Monday to Friday.
Elected members receive regular complaints from householders having difficulty entering or leaving their homes because of inconsiderately parked vehicles left so close to the dropped kerbs of driveways that it becomes dangerous, occasionally impossible, to drive in or out.
Whose cars are parking there? Mostly it is drivers wanting to avoid paying the charges and time restrictions in town. And so they park all day for free within walking distance of the town centre. They probably work in town centre businesses.
As long as they are not causing an obstruction, and their vehicle is taxed and insured, no offence is being committed.
Occasionally the vehicles do block access. In such cases it is the police, and not Civil Enforcement Officers, with powers to intervene.
In locations such the Saints area the parked cars belong to drivers visiting or working at the District Hospital, or to staff and pupils at the two nearby secondary schools.
I have participated in a series of meetings with managers of all three organisations, and some steps have been taken to overcome the problems but they persist.
Residents maintain – understandably – that employers should do more to provide their employees with places to park on their own sites.
In reality, that is easier said than done.
Whilst the County Council will deal with incidents to address road safety concerns, like putting down yellow lines near junctions, greater use of parking restrictions in one street risks moving the problem on to the next one.
A long-term solution could be the wider use of Residential Parking Schemes.
There are already a number of such zones close to the town centre.
A permit to allow local residents to park in their zone costs just £16 per year but it does not guarantee a parking space.
Harrogate Borough Council administers the schemes for NYCC and full details can be found on the HBC website, search “residential parking”.
No new schemes have been introduced in Harrogate in recent years because of the expense to the taxpayer.
The income from permits and fines falls a long way short of set-up, running and enforcement costs.
Only a scheme which has third-party funding is currently considered viable.
This is why a report will come to the Executive members in October outlining officers’ recommendations for changes.
The question remains: what happens to the hundreds of vehicles currently using unrestricted roads for long-stay parking if restrictions are brought in?
There will be increased incentive to use public transport. Some drivers may resort to bikes or walking.
Others may consider paying to park, perhaps buying discounted season tickets to use town centre car parks.
The rest may, of course, simply move to unrestricted streets farther away from the town centre or their place of work.
Solving a problem in one area often causes it re-appear in another, and complaints from a new set of residents begin all over again.