Blanket pressures: Do national defaults work at the local level?


Local authorities in Scotland and Wales are concerned about the resource implications of pavement parking bans and a default 20mph urban speed limit.

The Transport (Scotland) Act 2019, which received Royal Assent on 15 November, includes a national ban on pavement and double parking, with enforcement powers for local authorities.

And the Welsh Government has set up a working group to explore a similar ban in Wales, while another group is considering the practicalities of a 20mph speed limit as the default on Welsh residential roads.


A Bill to make 20mph the urban default limit in Scotland was rejected by MSPs in July. Two months earlier, Welsh first minister Mark Drakeford had announced that 20mph should become the default in Welsh urban areas.

The Welsh Local Government Association (WLGA) recently told its members that the earliest 20mph could become the default is 2023, given the work involved in consulting with communities and introducing a Traffic Regulation Order for each exemption.

‘A change-over to 20mph default would almost certainly have to take place on a specific date across the whole of Wales,’ said WLGA officers.

‘All necessary steps, including changes to signage, would need to be in place by that time. This preparatory period would also provide time for necessary communications work to be undertaken to raise public awareness.'

Communications will be especially important in terms of cross-border traffic, the WLGA argued.

‘Enforcement of 20mph limits once introduced would be a critical issue for local authorities and the police. There are already numerous complaints about excessive speeds on 30mph residential streets. There could also be an increase in demand for hard infrastructure if speeds do not reduce.’

The WLGA is represented on the groups advising ministers on this topic and on the proposed parking ban.

The latter group believes that a nationwide ban on pavement parking is currently inappropriate, as this would need primary legislation and could ‘create major challenges for communities, especially where there are narrow residential streets that necessitate pavement parking’.

The WLGA officers also warned of ‘significant immediate costs’ to introduce TROs and signs to permit unavoidable pavement parking, but suggested phased introduction would be more practical.

An alternative approach, perhaps as an intermediate measure, would involve secondary legislation which adds ‘obstruction of the highway’ to the list of contraventions covered by Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE). All 22 Welsh unitary authorities now operate CPE.

Not all Scottish councils have taken on CPE, and this has heightened local government concerns about how Scotland’s pavement parking ban will be enforced.

Before the ban was passed into law, SCOTS (the Society of Chief Officers of Transportation in Scotland) told MSPs that enforcement would further burden already stretched council teams, and that the required resources had been ‘substantially underestimated’.

SCOTS also said a national information campaign would be required, and the TRO process for exemptions would be ‘bureaucratic, expensive and potentially unworkable’.

It called for additional up-front funding for local authorities, rather than assumptions that future income from fines would cover costs.

How are local authorities approaching the task, now the legislation has been passed?

SCOTS chair Stewart Turner told Transport Network that SCOTS supported the pavement parking ban in principle.

‘But it is the manner in which this is delivered that causes the greatest concern for the 32 roads authorities in Scotland,’ he said.

‘We are working with Transport Scotland through their Parking Standards Working Group, and part of this work is to better understand the implementation costs of this proposed ban. At present we continue to evaluate this work and I would expect this estimate to be available early in 2020.

'From a SCOTS perspective, we expect the costs of implementation to be met by the Scottish Government.’

He said the Transport Act had many strands, and implementation would require secondary legislation.

‘It is expected that it will be two years before the impact of some elements of the Act is noticed by the general public.’  

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