Residents’ Parking Zones (RPZs) came into effect in 2013 under the former mayor as a headline transport intervention. They were introduced amid substantial controversy, to cover central Bristol and surrounding areas. The zones are an attempt at managing our city’s limited parking space while striking a balance with connectivity.
Controversies have included that they provide benefits to those able to afford the permit(s), and to people living in central areas to the detriment of residents living in outer wards. One point frequently made against the schemes is that nobody owns the road outside their house and that RPZs effectively extend the boundaries of homes in central areas.
RPZs were primarily intended to reduce commuter parking and therefore car journeys. There is no evidence that they have contributed to reduced car use, although it is difficult to precisely measure its impact. What is clear, is evidence that they have contributed to increasing short term car journeys inside the zones. Given this evidence, I do struggle to understand why self-styled environmental campaigners and some councillors consistently advocate for the convenience of private car ownership when they insist that they want an RPZ for their areas. Worse still, they regularly ignore the housing crisis and try to block planning applications for new homes in the name of parking pressures.
What is certain is we all need to improve our attitude to our often-crowded spaces, for pedestrians, cyclists, e-scooter users, and motorists. Our streets also need space for street trees, sustainable drainage systems, electric vehicle charge points, cycle hangars, and other features. Single issue campaigners often struggle to see the bigger picture.
Since coming into effect, the zones, the charging structures, and their operation have remained largely unchanged without any review of their operation or effectiveness. Meanwhile, over the past decade, we’ve seen major changes in how Bristol operates alongside advances in national ideas about how we could better maximise the use of limited space available in growing urban areas.
After almost a decade of the zones being in place, it’s important we take the opportunity to revaluate the role they play. Most RPZs are in areas of higher density, older housing with limited parking space. The schemes have had some success in reducing anti-social parking, and we’ve been open-minded about where councillors work with communities to build and demonstrate overwhelming support for the introduction and/or expansion of zones.
That same year, along with our neighbours and the West of England Combined Authority, we adopted the Joint Local Transport Plan (JLTP) which, among other policy areas, set out the following commitment: “Through the development of local parking strategies, we will continue to manage parking to control future traffic demand, including policies for on-street parking, off-street parking and residential parking schemes where appropriate. The design and location of new developments and at workplaces, as well as the numbers of spaces, will help to manage demand and reduce the dependency on the private car. All day parking will be controlled in a way to discourage users who could transfer to lower carbon travel choices.”
This passage from the JLTP recognises the need to move away from a one-size fits all approach to parking, traffic, and transport issues to encourage the adoption of schemes that fit the local context and need. In this spirit, the Mayor set out in his 2020 State of the City Address that: “Rather than expand the simplistic and outdated Residents’ Parking Zones, we are working with communities towards liveable streets, improving the public realm, enhancing public transport and active travel.”
This commitment to review the structures already in pace and take action to better listen to the needs of communities was clear in the manifesto which saw us re-elected. That process has seen the community design the city’s first Liveable Neighbourhoods trial in East Bristol across Barton Hill, Redfield, and parts of St George. A second scheme is in the early stages of being developed in BS3.
These new schemes are light-years ahead of the RPZs and aim to counter the growing tendency within these zones for short, local trips by car when active travel should be considered.
The next stage of the process will be brought to our next Cabinet meeting on Tuesday, 6 June, where I will present a paper that aims to bring the RPZs up to date with the change the city’s going through and align with evolving national policy.
The proposals I will set out in this meeting include:
- Removing reductions provided to low emissions vehicles, currently free below 100g CO2 and half price between 101 and 110g CO2, to align with an existing government policy change to remove many of the reductions offered to lower emissions vehicles through Vehicle Excise Duty, since parking is about space, not emissions.
- Doubling cost of secondary permits, from £112 to £224, and raising the cost of third permits from £224 to £560.
- Increasing Central Parking Zone (CPZ) permit fees from £50 to £250, to reflect the premium on space in our city centre.
These proposals will be followed later this year by additional potential measures to comprehensively further review the effectiveness of the RPZs.