BPA lays out manifesto for improved standards

Published:  08 January, 2014

After a busy year for the British Parking Association, the organisation is looking ahead to 2014 to continue to raise standards in the parking industry.          

The British Parking Association has had a busy 18 months what with the introduction of its independent parking charge appeals service POPLA, its involvement in a global parking survey, joining forces with the Irish Parking Association and in calling a Parking Summit for early next year. 

Founded in 1970 and with over 700 member organisations including technology manufacturers, car park operators and local authorities, the BPA is dedicated to promoting standards and best practice in every type of parking facility. It has called a Parking Summit, loosely scheduled for March 2014, to address parking concerns in England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland and it will be inviting Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as well as Transport Ministers to contribute to the discussion.  

As Kelvin Reynolds, the BPA’s director of operations and technical services, explains: “We last held a Parking Summit in 2009 when there was a mismatch of information regarding parking on private land and enforcement techniques like clamping,” he says. “This time, we’ll be looking at civil parking enforcement, getting government, operators and the public together in one room to think about the issues and deal with them.

“We need to review restrictions and controls,” he adds. “Many of them were devised donkey’s years ago and we have to make sure they’re still relevant and current; if they aren’t working, they need to be changed.”

But while parking is highly emotive - a hot topic for MPs and the media, mooted as a major factor in the regeneration of high streets, particularly in secondary towns, and often viewed in a negative light by motorists, Reynolds believes the car parks at retail destinations are often of high quality. 

He explains: “Landlords focus on the offer first, continually working to improve the tenant mix. Often the next priority is to get the secondary experience right and the car park is part of that, as the first and last impression many people get of the centre. When it is poorly maintained and managed it can put visitors off and leave a bad taste in the mouth. And when there’s competition nearby, the quality of the car park could mean the difference between people choosing to go to your centre or another one.

“By and large, when it comes to management, retailers and retail property landlords have the commercial nous to want to do it properly, because if they do it wrong, the customer will go elsewhere. It is managed as one entity allowing them to treat it holistically, and that makes it easier to get right, whereas on the high street, there’s the local authority and a myriad of landlords and no-one takes ownership. Remedying that is very much part of the conversation.”

However, he also says it’s not uncommon for landlords who contract out their car park management to leave them to go off and do their own thing with little or no communication: “Encouraging a proper contractual relationship is really important,” he says. “If the parties don’t communicate, it doesn’t work.”  

One of the public’s many bugbears when it comes to parking is poorly managed spaces and Reynolds advocates using enforcement to make sure that Blue Badge and parent & child bays are being used properly, with the right people able to access the right spaces. 

Next year, the BPA is looking to further promote its Approved Operator Scheme (shopping centre owners and operators who manage their car parks in-house can sign up themselves), as well as its Park Mark initiative or ‘Safer Parking Scheme’, an award already held by 1,000 shopping centres in the UK, as well as around 4,000 other parking sites. Reynolds is keen to promote its benefits: “A bright, well lit and airy car park will deter criminals, making it more attractive for the people you want to come in and less likely to attract people you don’t,” he says.  

And it will continue to lobby for POPLA’s adoption in Scotland and Northern Ireland as well as throughout the UK to make it available to all motorists. 

POPLA, the Parking on Private Land Appeals service, was brought in by but is independent of the BPA, and provides motorists with a simple, free appeals service for parking charge notices issued on private land in England and Wales. It has had significant success since it was introduced in October 2012, with half of the 14,000 motorists who appealed over the last 14 months, having won. 

It has suffered criticism with some questioning the fairness of a parking dispute service that has ties to an organisation with parking management companies as members, but Reynolds says that while it’s not perfect, and never will be, “it works” and he is hugely proud of it. 

“The BPA has worked diligently to raise standards, eradicate rogue operators and make parking a recognised profession and will continue to do so,” a statement on POPLA said. “We are interested only in placing the motorist at the heart of our thinking.” 

“We are committed to raising standards and campaigning for proper and effective parking management so that we have a fair and reasonable system. And part of that is to also educate the public so they park compliantly,” adds Reynolds.  

“I hope the general public understand why and how parking is managed. Most parking is managed for the good of the community, and people appreciate its benefits; the majority of motorists, drive, park and get on with their lives, and it works. But if it doesn’t, people make a fuss - it’s a real shame, but people only notice it when it isn’t working.”

Global trends

The 2013 Global Parking Survey, published in September and contributed to by the BPA, showed that innovative technology is viewed as a top trend, and that while decision-makers’ attitudes toward parking are improving, more collaboration is needed. 

The Global Parking Association Leaders Summit (GPALs), a group comprised of worldwide parking associations, surveyed parking professionals from 21 countries, and the results revealed some universal similarities along with a few interesting country-specific differences.  

When asked to name up to three cities within or outside of their own countries they would consider trendsetting or progressive in terms of their approach to parking, survey respondents most often cited London, followed by San Francisco, Amsterdam, Paris, Barcelona, Seattle, and Tokyo. 

Technologies including electronic payment, sensor space-monitoring systems, and a shift towards accommodating electric vehicles has transformed the parking industry in many countries within the last few years, with the majority of parking facility owners, operators and managers polled listing the move toward innovative technology as the leading industry trend.

It is estimated that about a third of the traffic in any city consists of people driving around looking for parking spaces, and 11 of the 13 countries surveyed listed traffic congestion as one of the most significant societal influences on parking. 

One-third of those surveyed believe that parking’s greatest future challenge will be dealing with this scarcity of space and resources and rising mobility costs in urban areas. 

And at least half of those polled in Britain believe that while decision-makers’ attitudes toward parking appear to be positively shifting around the world, most respondents feel that more collaboration is needed. In line with this, economic pressures on retailers was listed as a top concern by Brazil, Britain, Ireland, and Spain. 

“The Global Parking Survey is not a statistically projectable study, but it’s a valuable snapshot and the beginning of knowledge-building and future collaborative projects among parking professionals
around the world,” says BPA chief executive Patrick Troy.

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