Eric Pickles's plan to give 15-minute grace on double-yellow lines is denounced as 'unworkable'

Lib Dems split over support for cabinet colleague

Plans to grant motorists a 15-minute grace window allowing them to park on double yellow lines while they pop into a shop came under fire yesterday from local authorities, road safety campaigners and even drivers’ groups who described them as dangerous and flawed.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles is backing the scheme, which he believes could help regenerate high streets where decline is often blamed on ruthlessly efficient traffic wardens and costly parking.

Councils were urged to rein in what was described as an “over-zealous enforcement culture” which has seen illicit parking generate more than £1 million a day in fines for town hall chiefs.

Mr Pickles floated the idea in an article in The Daily Telegraph, prompting speculation that it marked a split within the Coalition after the Liberal Democrat transport minister Norman Baker said the idea was “unworkable”.  However, Business Secretary Vince Cable later expressed “sympathy” for Mr Pickles' plans.

Under the proposal those who took longer than a quarter of an hour would face fines of £130. Currently motorists who flout restrictions must pay £70 outside London and £130 in the capital.

The Local Government Association said double yellow lines were there to prevent accidents and keep traffic flowing. Introducing the 15-minute window would be impossible to monitor as well as costly to introduce, it said.

Cllr Peter Box, chairman of the Local Government Association’s economy and transport board, said: “Removing parking restrictions on these parts of the road could jeopardise the safety of pedestrians, cyclists and other motorists and create further traffic jams.”

Whilst the AA said it was in favour of some easing of the rules, the RAC warned businesses were likely to be adversely affected by a “parking free-for-all”.

Even business groups gave the plan only a cautious thumbs-up. Michael Weedon, of the British Independent Retailers Association, said the lifting of restrictions - whilst welcome in theory - should only take place if it was certain it would not impact on safety.

John Allan, national chairman of the Federation of Small Businesses, said: “This proposal highlights the need for a clear discussion about parking provision across the country and how to limit the use of parking fees and fines for financial gain.”

But Ellen Booth of the road safety charity Brake said there was no evidence to suggest that relaxing double yellow lines would encourage more local spending and called for the wider introduction of 20mph zones.

“Instead of encouraging more people to drive to busy city centres, Brake urges the government to do more to encourage the public to arrive by other forms of transport by making streets safer for walking and cycling and by introducing more park and ride facilities,” she said.

Earlier this month the High Court ruled that local authorities could not increase parking charges as a means of raising revenues following a test case involving Barnet council in north London.

It is a far cry from what could have been envisaged by George Bamber, a farmer who can lay claim to being the architect of the ubiquitous yellow stripes which, along with their pernicious cousin the red line, now mark hundreds of thousands of miles of British roads out of bounds to vehicles.

Bamber, who died in 1902 nearly half a century before the Road Traffic Act enshrined his creation in law, copied the symbols from the markings on the sheep he kept at his property at Masham, North Yorkshire.

He painted them on the road around the perimeter of his holding to ward off parked carts on the town’s busy market day. The idea was rapidly copied by the local mayor and those in surrounding villages although it did not appear in London until the mid-1950s when it was introduced in a bid to control parking around Chinese restaurants in Soho.

It was not until 1960 that the necessary legislation was passed to make the markings law in the UK and what remained of its empire - although the powers to enforce parking regulations have been routinely updated and extended ever since.

For decades motorists have lamented Bamber’s controlling vision which has helped pit the driver against the forces of town hall bureaucracy and their outriders - the parking attendant - in an apparently never-ending war of attrition.

In one of the more notable examples of municipal literal-mindedness Theatre Street in Norwich was for a while home to the UK’s shortest double yellow line measuring just 24 inches.

Drivers have complained at having the markings painted around their parked vehicles and tickets issued whilst revelations earlier this year that some traffic wardens were earning in excess of £50,000 a year provoked outrage among the motoring lobby.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Delegate Telesales Executive - OTE £21,000 uncapped

£16000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: High quality, dedicated Delegat...

Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - School Playground Designer

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A fantastic opportunity has ari...

Recruitment Genius: Traffic Planner

£20000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: As the successful candidate you...

Recruitment Genius: Junior Designer - Graduate Scheme

£17000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Join one of the UK's leading de...

Day In a Page

Fifa corruption: The 161-page dossier that exposes the organisation's dark heart

The 161-page dossier that exposes Fifa's dark heart

How did a group of corrupt officials turn football’s governing body into what was, in essence, a criminal enterprise? Chris Green and David Connett reveal all
Mediterranean migrant crisis: 'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves,' says Tripoli PM

Exclusive interview with Tripoli PM Khalifa al-Ghweil

'If Europe thinks bombing boats will stop smuggling, it will not. We will defend ourselves'
Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles: How the author foretold the Californian water crisis

Raymond Chandler's Los Angeles

How the author foretold the Californian water crisis
Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison as authorities crackdown on dissent in the arts

Art attack

Chinese artist who posted funny image of President Xi Jinping facing five years in prison
Marc Jacobs is putting Cher in the limelight as the face of his latest campaign

Cher is the new face of Marc Jacobs

Alexander Fury explains why designers are turning to august stars to front their lines
Parents of six-year-old who beat leukaemia plan to climb Ben Nevis for cancer charity

'I'm climbing Ben Nevis for my daughter'

Karen Attwood's young daughter Yasmin beat cancer. Now her family is about to take on a new challenge - scaling Ben Nevis to help other children
10 best wedding gift ideas

It's that time of year again... 10 best wedding gift ideas

Forget that fancy toaster, we've gone off-list to find memorable gifts that will last a lifetime
Paul Scholes column: With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards

Paul Scholes column

With the Premier League over for another year, here are my end of season awards
Heysel disaster 30th anniversary: Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget fateful day in Belgium

Liverpool have seen too much tragedy to forget Heysel

Thirty years ago, 39 fans waiting to watch a European Cup final died as a result of a fatal cocktail of circumstances. Ian Herbert looks at how a club dealt with this tragedy
Amir Khan vs Chris Algieri: Khan’s audition for Floyd Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation, says Frank Warren

Khan’s audition for Mayweather may turn into a no-win situation

The Bolton fighter could be damned if he dazzles and damned if he doesn’t against Algieri, the man last seen being decked six times by Pacquiao, says Frank Warren
Blundering Tony Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

Blundering Blair quits as Middle East peace envoy – only Israel will miss him

For Arabs – and for Britons who lost their loved ones in his shambolic war in Iraq – his appointment was an insult, says Robert Fisk
Fifa corruption arrests: All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue

Fifa corruption arrests

All hail the Feds for riding to football's rescue, says Ian Herbert
Isis in Syria: The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of President Assad and militant fighters

The Kurdish enclave still resisting the tyranny of Assad and Isis

In Syrian Kurdish cantons along the Turkish border, the progressive aims of the 2011 uprising are being enacted despite the war. Patrick Cockburn returns to Amuda
How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields: Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape the US

How I survived Cambodia's Killing Fields

Acclaimed surgeon SreyRam Kuy celebrates her mother's determination to escape to the US
Stephen Mangan interview: From posh buffoon to pregnant dad, the actor has quite a range

How Stephen Mangan got his range

Posh buffoon, hapless writer, pregnant dad - Mangan is certainly a versatile actor