What does Edinburgh council election result mean for plans to extend controlled parking zones?

In the wake of last week’s council elections, what’s going to happen about expanding Edinburgh’s controlled parking zones?

Let us know what you think and join the conversation at the bottom of this article.

Plans to expand the number of controlled parking zones in the Capital were a hot topic before the council elections and they continue to be a hot topic afterwards. Supporters say they are a necessary move to combat the problem of commuters or other motorists leaving their cars in residential streets, making it harder for the people who live there to find parking spaces. Critics argue the new zones are being proposed for areas where there is not really a problem or that the proposals are not tailored to address the specific issues in their street. The parties’ manifestos took differing lines on the subject, so what does the election outcome tell us about what is likely to happen next with the proposals?

What is a Controlled Parking Zone?

A Controlled Parking Zone (CPZ) is intended to protect residents’ ability to park near their homes. Typically, all parking spaces within the zone are designated either as “residents only” or “shared use” although some might be purely pay-and-display. Only residents who pay for a parking permit can park in the residents-only bays, while shared-use spaces are available to both permit holders and pay-and-display customers. The restrictions mostly apply Monday-Friday, 8.30am-5.30pm, but sometimes they can be just for a couple of hours in the middle of the day to prevent all-day parking without a permit.

What are the proposals?

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The council carried out a Strategic Parking Review in 2018 to identify areas where there were parking pressures and propose measures to deal with them. The review brought forward plans to create new CPZs in several areas across the city, which would be split into four phases.

Phase one covers: Leith / Abbeyhill and Gorgie / Shandon; phase two: Lochend / Ryehill (called West Leith on council plans), Bonnington, Willowbrae and the A8 corridor; phase three: existing Priority Parking Areas B1, B3, B4, B5, B7 and B10, plus Fettes and Prestonfield; and phase four: Newhaven, Trinity and Portobello.

Controlled parking zones are intended to protect parking for residents in areas where commuters and others often leave their cars.Controlled parking zones are intended to protect parking for residents in areas where commuters and others often leave their cars.
Controlled parking zones are intended to protect parking for residents in areas where commuters and others often leave their cars.

What are the objections?

Some residents in the affected areas say they have no problem finding parking spaces or the problems they do have would not be helped by what is proposed.

The council argues that even if there is not an obvious problem at the moment, that could change very quickly when a CPZ is introduced in a neighbouring area and the drivers who have been parking there free have to find somewhere else to leave their car. The council says part of what it is doing is planning ahead and preventing problems which will arise if no action is taken – in other words, bringing in controls to make sure motorists who leave their cars in residential areas don’t just move a few streets further down when restrictions come into force.

Where are we up to now?

A map showing the proposed new Controlled Parking ZonesA map showing the proposed new Controlled Parking Zones
A map showing the proposed new Controlled Parking Zones
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None of the new CPZs have been implemented yet. The traffic order for the phase one areas has been advertised and councillors were advised in March that the results if that were being reviewed alongside the development of the business case for implementation, with a report due to be presented to committee following the summer recess.

But the transport and environment committee agreed in August 2021 to pause implementation of the CPZs in the phase two areas after hearing a majority of respondents to the consultation “do not believe the introduction of parking controls is warranted at this time”. Instead, the committee agreed to allow phase one to be implemented and monitored for any effects, carry out further engagement with residents' groups and others and receive another report in autumn 2022 at the latest.

Consultations have taken place on the phase three and four areas, but the results of these have not yet been reported to committee.

So what will happen?

There will have to be a report back to the new committee, which will then have to decide whether to go ahead with some or all of the new CPZs. The SNP’s Edinburgh manifesto did not mention CPZs, but the party says they provide better access to residents’ parking and help create a safer environment for walking and cycling and more liveable streets for everyone, in turn improving air quality and reducing harmful emissions. The Greens proposed "an action plan to reduce overall car parking spaces in the city each year while extending the CPZs".

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The Tory manifesto said: "Controlled parking schemes should only go ahead where there is proven need and resident demand." And the Lib Dems also promised: "We will only pursue new CPZs where there is clear evidence of parking issues and where consultations show clear local support among affected residents."

It could be Labour votes which end up deciding the matter – and it’s not entirely clear what the party’s position would be. The manifesto talked about "restrictions on commuter street parking in residential areas", but did not go into details. After some of the experience over controversial measures introduced when it was part of the last council administration, the party is alert to the risk of being accused of ignoring consultations. So if locals in any of the proposed areas are clearly opposed to a CPZ, Labour may be reluctant to be the ones who effectively force them through.

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