Enforcing parking restrictions on the Downs is expected to be “too difficult” without introducing new parking fees for drivers.
Parking on the historic parkland has long been an issue with an increasing number of van dwellers staying there long term.
Bristol City Council will be asked to enforce a new three-hour parking limit on the roads around and within the Downs. But it’s unclear whether this will be possible without also introducing fees, due to a shortage of enforcement staff.
The Downs committee met on Monday, January 15, to discuss the issue, and heard a long-awaited report from the parking task and finish group. The group recommended a three-hour parking limit, as well as closing Circular Road to most vehicles. The current limit is five hours, although it appears this is ignored by some drivers and is not enforced.
Conservative Councillor Steve Smith, representing Westbury-on-Trym and Henleaze, said: “What parking services have told me is the problem and the reason they don’t or can’t enforce now isn’t the parking duration, it’s the no return. At the moment it’s five hours, with no return within two hours.
“But what happens is you see a car there at 12pm, and if it’s still there at 5.30pm you put a ticket on it. They’ll claim that they went away for two hours and then came back. Unless you can prove that’s not true, which it usually isn’t, then the ticket is returned.”
Another issue is a shortage of parking enforcement officers. These officers also work in other parts of the city, particularly those with residents’ parking zones, where residents pay for a parking permit and anyone without a permit can’t park there. But the income from the permits goes towards paying the staff to carry out the enforcement.
Green Cllr Christine Townsend, representing Southville, said: “What you’re asking for here is existing enforcement officers to go and do the enforcement. I would be reluctant to stretch that resource away from residential areas where the enforcement is also needed.
“Why is it that we’re not suggesting that we start charging people to park on the Downs? Without an income coming from the parking, you’re asking the council to stretch a resource away from residential parking.”
The Downs committee is made up of several councillors and members of the Society of Merchant Venturers, a business group. The committee does not have the power to introduce parking fees or change restrictions, but can only suggest changes to the council.
By Alex Seabrook, Local Democracy Reoporting Service