Blocked drains in #Cowick

Last week at Exeter Highways And Traffic Orders Committee [HATOC], we received an update on a recent Members’ briefing on the  emptying of gullies  [that’s drains to you and me!] .

The gully emptying policy is on DCC’s website and the update gave a statement of objectives:
– to remove detritus from the gully
– to ensure continued efficient functioning of the gully with its connection.

The update gave us another policy objective to the 3 of 4 listed on the website:
– empty urban gullies with sumps at least once every three years
– empty rural gullies with sumps at least once a year
– flush gullies without sumps once a year
– where it has been assessed that a gully requires more frequent cleansing the frequency shall be increased
[Examples of this are gullies where flooding will affect building or known to fill up more quickly].

              However, should I be worried that the update seemsot omit the missing fourth category?

                – respond to reports of blocked drains which are causing standing water, or could lead to a road becoming icy.

On Thursday, I noticed this drain near the Crossmead bus stop was blocked and surface water was not draining away.

Blocked gully on Dunsford Road
Blocked gully on Dunsford Road

On Monday 02 February I used DCC’s on-line reporting system to inform the County Council of this problem – the unique reference number W15767184 allows me to track progress on this fault.

At first I was informed that it would be sorted by 26/02/14 – but as I write this blog  a day later, I notice the fault has already been completed.

But not all blocked drains are so easy to clear…

Recently, I was made aware of this one at the end of the cul-de-sac in Oak Road.

Blocked drain on Oak Road
Blocked drain on Oak Road

It looks fairly innocuous made worse by the sunken road surface, a legacy of Eurobell’s cable installation far too long ago.

Cllr Paul Bull with blocked drain on Oak Road
Cllr Paul Bull with blocked drain on Oak Road

A large downpour on Saturday morning flooded the driveway and blocked the pathway. I received a phone call from one of the residents affected, but by the time I arrived 45 mins later the surface water had receded. But they had some photos on their camera….

Oak Road flooded [31/01/15] - 03
Oak Road flooded [31/01/15] 
As I had already reported this problem to DCC I was surprised when the resident told me that some contractors had turned up and took photos themselves on Thursdsay – not once but twice!

It appears that specialist equipment is needed to tackle this drain – a jetter machine – which the gang who attended last week did not have and so were not equipped ti do this job at that time.

I (and the resident) wait with anticipation – and the hope that it doesn’t rain too heavily in the interim!

And of course, none of this addresses the underlying problem of the sunken road

Raised cover due to sunken road
Raised cover due to sunken road
Sunken surface on Oak Road
Sunken surface on Oak Road

#COWICK NEWSLETTER [Winter 2015]| #PavementParking

Now that the major utilities works being carried out by Wales & West are over, it seems that the streets of Cowick are less congested. But some pavement parking remains.

Now there are 2 conflicting issues in play here.

If drivers didn’t park on the pavement, roads would be narrow for traffic. This is of immense concern on Barley Farm Road where inappropriate parking often delays the P bus on its journey to the city centre.

Yet parking on the pavement means pedestrians often have to walk in the road as there is no room for them to pass on the footpaths. This becomes even more of a problem for residents with visual impairments, parents with buggies and wheelchair users.

There are debates currently happening in Parliament where they are discussing the issue of pavement parking.

But these may not resolve the conflicts in Cowick. But Cllr Paul Bull has an idea that might help.

“A recent meeting of Exeter Highways and Traffic Orders Committee HATOC] was discussing if there was an progress on re-instating the old ban on pavement parking,” says Paul “and I asked if they would consider a scheme for those roads that need it – painting a line on the pavement that allows drivers to park on the pavement but ensures there is enough space for pedestrians to pass by on the footpath.”

What do you think of Paul’s suggestion? Please contact your Labour team and let them know.

Cllr Heather Morris behind a P bus delayed by pavement parking in Barley Farm Road
Cllr Heather Morris behind a P bus delayed by pavement parking in Barley Farm Road

#PavementParking in #Exeter – why the provisions of the Exeter Act 1987 have fallen into the long grass

Parking on the pavement can obstruct and seriously inconvenience pedestrians, people in wheelchairs or with visual impairments and people with prams or pushchairs.

However, the law surrounding the practice of pavement parking is extremely confused and confusing.

The Highway Code states in Rule 244: You MUST NOT park partially or wholly on the pavement in London, and should not do so elsewhere unless signs permit it.

So, in London, parking on pavements is illegal under the Greater London Council Act (1974), except in specifically designated areas, which much be clearly marked.

But elsewheren the rest of the UK the law is more complex.

Heavy commercial vehicles are banned from parking on the footway (Road Traffic Act 1988 s19 and s20), except when goods are being unloaded and and the vehicle is not creating a danger or an obstruction.

It is illegal to drive a vehicle on the footway (Highways Act 1835 s.72) and to cause an obstruction (Highways Act 1980 s. 137). Both the latter carry fines (Road Traffic Offenders Act 1988, s.51 and schedule 3).

However, it is difficult to enforce and prove guilt in these cases. Despite the obvious inference that a parked vehicle has been driven on the footway prior to being parked there, witnesses to the driving may be needed to secure a prosecution.

Similarly the offence of obstruction of the highway is difficult to prove, particularly if police claim that it is possible to negotiate the obstacle whilst remaining within the boundaries of the highway – even if this means a diversion for pedestrians off the pavement.

The Department for Transport have stated that:
“There is currently no national legislation banning the parking of all vehicles on the pavement, due to the wide range of circumstances and locations where pavement parking occurs. For example in some narrow residential roads with a lack of off-street parking provision, drivers have little option but to park on the pavement to avoid causing traffic hazards.”

Back In 1987, Exeter City Council took a robust attitude to the problem of pavement parking – rather than using Traffic Regulation Orders [TROs] in specific areas, they used legislation to impose a city-wide ban. By virtue of section 30 of the Exeter City Council Act 1987 [commonly referred to as the Exeter Act 1987], footway and verge parking on urban roads was prohibited:

The Act went on to say: (8) The Council shall erect notices on roads at the borders of the area to which the prohibition specified in subsection (1) above applies.

Gateway sign on Barley Lane where it jois Nadder Park Road (although in photo it is facing the wrong way!)

So, the Exeter Act 1987 made parking on the footway or verge a criminal offence. And traffic wardens did enforce it by issuing parking tickets. There were some exceptions, and these were marked with specific signs – Sussex Close and Wiltshire Close off Somerset Avenue in Cowick are 2 such examples.

TSRGD Sign 667 Vehicles permitted to park partially on the footway (Sussex Close)

Notice in the above paragraph I used the past tense!

Up until 2008, parking violations were criminal offences and enforced either by the police and/or traffic wardens. In May 2008, those powers transferred to Devon County Council and now Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) enforce parking restrictions using powers issued by the Secretary of State under regulations within the Traffic Management Act 2004.

When DCC applied for Civil Parking Enforcement powers the request was also made that the provisions of Section 30 of the Exeter City Act 1987 be included in the Schedules to the Traffic Management Act. However, due to time constraints this was not possible. As a result, the provisions within the Exeter City Act were not transferred to DCC and therefore responsibility for enforcement currently remains with the Police Authority.

Since then, Exeter Highways & Traffic Orders Committee [HATOC] have been trying to rectify this situation.

At its meeting on 02 February 2012, Exeter HATOC considered a report, Pavement Parking in Exeter

Minute 118 of this meeting notes that it was RESOLVED that this development be welcomed and that the new provisions be implemented as expeditiously as possible following appropriate consultation and publicity.

In accordance with Standing Order 23(2) Councillor Macdonald has requested that Exeter HATOC consider this item again at the subsequent meeting held on 19 April 2012.

Minute 132 of this meeting noted that I attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item.

I asked about how vehicles parked over the dropped kerb entrance to their own driveways would be treated if and when pavement parking was enforced.

The minute goes on to say that The Neighbourhood Highway Group Manager reported that a review of the signage and their replacement was underway. Implementation of the new enforcement powers by the County Council (through the Civil Enforcement Officers) was planned for September 2012. Exemptions would be permitted under the regulations. The Committee noted the position.

On 08 November 2012, Exeter HATOC received an update on the pavement parking situation.

Although arising from a by-law from Exeter City Council, Devon County Council – as highways agency – are responsible for signage, etc. DfT have advised that additional signage is required (at intervals of around 400m) – how has this changed from the situation prior to 2008 change of parking enforcement operation? It is NOT a TRO matter but I’ve been advised that we should discuss a scheme for members to add additional exemptions to those that already have such exemptions (like Sussex Cl and Wiltshire Cl in Cowick).

Minute 162 of this meeting adds that the Head of Highways and Traffic Management reported that detailed discussion between the County Council and the Department of Transport were continuing. In the interim any suggested exemptions proposed by Members should be referred to the Exeter Neighbourhood Highway Team (Devon County Council) to assess.

So it seems that plans to reintroduce the provisions of schedule 30 of the Exeter 1987 have been stymied by Secretary of State for Transport. Even ingnoring the cost of several £100ks, this seems ot go against all other directives about reducing street clutter.

The next time that Exeter HATOC considered the matter was at its meeting held on 22 July 2014.

Once again I attended in accordance with Standing Order 25(2) and spoke to this item. I pointed out that there are some roads in Cowick where, if pavement parking was prevented, legal parking would make the streets too narrow for traffic to pass. We often have problems on Barley Farm Road, where legal parking prevents the only bus for the ward getting down the street!

Pavement parking on Barley Farm Road

So I pointed out that I’m keen to explore the option used by Oxford, Slough and maybe others – with a line denoting where cars can pavement park and if this line is breached, a PCN can be issued.

The minutes of the meeting note that the Head of Highways, Capital Development and Waste reported that following consultation with the Department for Transport he was developing proposals and options, in consultation with other local authorities and industry associations, to enable enforcement of parking on pavement restrictions whilst still maintaining, as appropriate, exemptions in respect of the more narrow and congested urban roads.

It was MOVED by Councillor Owen, SECONDED by Councillor Prowse and RESOLVED that a report on proposals relating to enforcement of parking on pavements restrictions be presented to the next meeting of this Committee.

So at the meeting of 10 November 2014, pavement parking was again considered.

Minute 82 of this meeting reported on the Pavement Parking Bill 2014-15 proceeding through Parliament to make provision for the safety, convenience and free movement on pavements of disabled people, older people, people accompanying young children, and other pavement users; to clarify, strengthen and simplify the law relating to parking on pavements in England and Wales; and for connected purposes. It was anticipated that the Bill would also cover inappropriate parking on verges.

The County Council had made representation on this matter to the British Parking Association and the Parking and Traffic Regulations Outside London (PATROL) who would be consulting with other local authorities to ascertain best practice on how to deal with this matter in the interim.

Pending statutory and best practice guidance the County Council would not be proposing any policy changes but that a report would be submitted to Cabinet on future options at the appropriate time.

So it seems, for now, DCC officers are letting discussions in Parliament take their (extremely slow) course.

And what of the progress of that Bill?

It was hoped that the Pavement Parking Bill 2014-15 would be receive its Second Reading on 09 January 2015 but there was insufficient time to consider it.

It has been rescheduled for a Second Reading on 27 March 2015, but I  don’t think this is likely to be heard (it will be the last session before the general election).

Further Reading: Living Streets are a dedicated group of professionals and volunteers, working together to create safer streets around the UK and in February 2010 published a Policy Briefing on pavement parking