In today’s Telegraph: Eric Pickles attacks councils putting motorists off high streets
Mr Pickles, the Communities and Local Government Secretary, said that “draconian” parking policies and pointless “street clutter” have led to motorists abandoning town centres.
He is calling on local authorities to ban speed bumps and parking bollards that put people off travelling to local shops.
Town Halls must also reduce parking charges that “undermine the vitality of town centres”, Mr Pickles added.
The Department of Communities and Local Government (DCLG) will this week issue new planning guidance that he hopes will force councils to make high streets more car-friendly.
He said that current rules are simply “driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out-of-town superstores”.
The Daily Telegraph is running a Reinventing the High Street campaign to put the heart back into the high street.
“Draconian town hall parking policies and street clutter can make driving into town centres unnecessarily stressful and actually create more congestion because of lack of places to park,” Mr Pickles said.
“Anti-car measures are driving motorists into the arms of internet retailers and out of town superstores, taking their custom with them.”
As part of his plans Mr Pickles wants to get rid of needless speed bumps and bollards.
“Unnecessary clutter and physical constraints such as parking bollards and roads humps should be avoided,” the new guidance states.
Mr Pickles believes that a lack of affordable parking – as well as heavy-handed ticketing policies – is also stopping people from driving to local shops.
Councils are this year expected to rake in £635 million of profit from motorists in parking charges and fines.
The new guidance from DCLG states that parking in town centres must in future be “convenient, safe and secure”.
“Parking charges should be appropriate and not undermine the vitality of town centres and local shops, and parking enforcement should be proportionate,” it adds.
Mr Pickles said: “Trying to find somewhere to park has an obstacle course in too many of our towns, cities and seaside resorts.
“Confusing and difficult car parking practices are undermining the economic vitality of the high street and tourist destinations. Over-zealous parking wardens have inflicting real damage on local economies and given many towns and councils a bad name.”
The Cabinet minister added: “Town halls need to ditch their anti-car dogma. Making it easier to park will help support local shops, local jobs and tourism.”
The final decision on whether to carry out any of the Government’s recommendations remains with councils, but Mr Pickles hopes that his new guidance will eventually become the norm for authorities across the country.
More than 350 councils in England now have the power to control parking on their streets and pocket fines from motorists.
Councils have boosted their income in a number of ways including pushing up the cost of hourly parking.
Some have introduced meters were parking was once free or extended the time when charges are enforced.
Mr Pickles’ new guidelines also warn that “excessive or insensitive” use of traffic signs in town centres is a “blight” on high streets.
“The quality of signage, including that for shops and other commercial premises, is important and can enhance identity and legibility,” the guidance states. “However, street clutter is a blight, as the excessive or insensitive use of traffic signs and other street furniture has a negative impact on the success of the street as a place.”