Clause 23 - Parking at Birmingham Interchange: limit on deemed planning permission

High Speed Rail (London - West Midlands) Bill – in a Public Bill Committee at 2:15 pm on 1 March 2016.

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Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:15, 1 March 2016

I beg to move amendment 15, in clause 23, page 11, line 29, at end, insert “where the meaning of the expression ‘short-term’ shall not extend to stays of more than 12 hours”.

Clause 23 allows for the creation of up to 7,500 parking spaces but this limit on spaces does not apply to short-term parking. This amendment defines short-term parking as being parking for a period of 12 hours or less.

We move from planning permissions and extensions thereof to the vexed question of parking in Birmingham, which I am sure everybody has been looking forward to. I think—dare I say it—that we are now back on track with our amendment. When it was initially presented, it may have been slotted in as part of the clause in error. I think I am right in saying that we are now at clause 23, page 11—

Photo of David Hanson David Hanson Labour, Delyn

Order. May I assist the hon. Gentleman? I have been notified by the Clerks that there is a small error on the Order Paper. Amendment 15 should relate to clause 23, page 11, line 28. Other than that, I understand that it is correct. Is the hon. Gentleman happy to speak to that?

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I am indeed. I am grateful for the clarification, Mr Hanson.

The amendment expresses our concerns about the volume of motor traffic that would be generated by the interchange station. We have been informed by the Campaign to Protect Rural England, whose petition on the issue and representations to the Select Committee we note. The CPRE’s initial concern was that the Birmingham interchange would be situated in the green belt. In our amendment, we are pursuing not that concern but some other legitimate concerns raised about the consequences of the station’s location.

This amendment attempts to address the volume of traffic that will be generated by the interchange station, the associated proposals to expand the capacity of the  surrounding road, and the pressure that would create for further expansion of the road network in the surrounding area.

One of the overarching purposes of building a railway, or indeed of investing in any form of public transport, is to reduce the number of journeys taken by car. Efforts should be made to ensure that there is not an inadvertent increase in net journeys by private car. The fear is that the inadvertent consequence of the specifications contained within clause 23—or, rather, the lack of them—may produce an undesirable outcome. It is submitted that the management of car parking spaces is one of the most efficient means to influence travel choices. There is a significant worry that the plans as set out in the Bill might encourage extra journeys by car. Indeed, one of the representations from the Campaign to Protect Rural England initially asked for the limit to be placed at 2,000 car parking spaces—yet the clause gives the much higher figure of 7,500—and also suggested that the limit placed on spaces for coaches should be increased to 25, and that car parking spaces should be multi-storey. That gives a flavour of some of the concerns of the Campaign to Protect Rural England.

As I say, currently the Bill provides for a limit to be placed on the provision of car parking places of 7,500 and, somewhat curiously, five parking spaces for coaches. I do not know whether the Minister can shed some light on that. That seems to be a very strange ratio, but undoubtedly there will be a logical explanation for it.

Be that as it may, the exclusions in subsection (4)(c)(i) of the clause exempt,

“the provision of short-term parking for cars”,

and, understandably, also the short-term parking for taxis and coaches. Subsection (4)(c)(ii) specifies an exemption for “parking on working sites”.

The clause puts a limit on car parking spaces of 7,500, but short-term car parking spaces are excluded from that. Exclusion from the provision may well serve to increase yet further the number of vehicles parked at Birmingham Interchange. As there is no definition of the term “short term” for the car parking spaces in Birmingham, people who currently plan to travel by train to Birmingham and then change trains might alternatively decide to drive to the station by car and park there, rather than using other forms of public transport. The whole issue is how to get some modal shift in how people go about their business.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

As the hon. Gentleman was speaking, I wondered whether there is not a problem when there is no legal definition of “short term”. The hon. Gentleman’s amendment seeks to define it as up to 12 hours, yet at Heathrow airport short-term parking is up to three or four days, for example. It seems rather vague terminology to use on the face of a Bill.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I entirely agree with the right hon. Gentleman. That is why we seek to specify the number of hours that constitute short-term car parking. It varies from one environment to another. In very busy city centres it might be 20 or 30 minutes, or it might be an hour. There is no universal statutory definition of what short-term car parking is. The amendment tries to address that for the purposes of this particular location.

Photo of Simon Burns Simon Burns Conservative, Chelmsford

I can certainly understand what the hon. Gentleman is trying to do. I only question whether the most appropriate place to try to do that is on the face of a piece of primary legislation.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport) 2:30, 1 March 2016

The right hon. Gentleman makes a valid point. The purpose of this amendment is to probe and tease out from the Minister exactly how this issue might be addressed. I declare now that I do not intend to press the amendment to a vote. However, I hope that it will elicit further information from the Minister during this discussion. The right hon. Gentleman’s point is valid and indeed there is no such definition, as we currently understand it.

What we are saying, in simple terms, is that in an attempt to go some way towards reducing the need for people to make unnecessary car journeys, and to encourage travellers to use other forms of transport, our amendment seeks to limit the time-limit maximum to 12 hours. That period of 12 hours would be more than sufficient for a traveller to conduct business in another location in the course of a working day, but would hopefully discourage them if their return to Birmingham took more than 12 hours. We address that at line 28, so that the limit of 7,500 car parking spaces that would be set out in clause 23(1) is not exceeded by the provision of short-term car parking for the duration of a stay that is less than 12 hours.

Hopefully, that will go some way towards curtailing the excessive car use that presumably the Government—who are promoting the Bill—wish to avoid. As I said, this is a probing amendment, but it would be appreciated if the Minister could reassure the Committee in as much detail as possible that thorough and comprehensive consideration has been given to how we might minimise the risk of unintended consequences. I hope that the Minister will give some delineation or some guidance as to what is meant by “short-term parking”.

Photo of Robert Goodwill Robert Goodwill Parliamentary Under-Secretary (Department for Transport)

I am more than happy to give a little bit more background about our thinking, which the hon. Gentleman is trying to tease out.

My short answer to his questions would be that these issues need to be addressed but probably not for another nine or 10 years, when the project will be on the ground and delivered. As the hon. Gentleman knows, clause 23 specifically relates to parking at Birmingham Interchange and sets limits on deemed planning permission. It limits the application of deemed planning permission under clause 20(1), regarding medium and long-term car parking at Birmingham Interchange, to no more than 7,500 cars and five coaches.

The figures for coaches and cars were based on our assessment of likely parking demand and a traffic assessment in the area, and to allow for expansion or excess demand the figure includes an allowance for flexibility. It was felt that parking is different in nature from operational railway structures, and therefore different controls were needed. Incidentally, other stations along the line of route do not have car parking on this scale and therefore have not been addressed in this way.

Local planning authorities will have controls over the details of the car park. Indeed, subsection (3) states:

“The deemed planning permission under section 20(1) for relevant development is…outline planning permission” for the purposes, as set out in subsection (4)(b), of:

“the Town and Country Planning (Development Management Procedure)(England) Order 2015”.

Therefore, as subsection (3) sets out, subsequent approval would be required from the local planning authority in relation to

“access, appearance, landscaping and layout” of the car parking.

I turn specifically to the hon. Gentleman’s amendment. The clause has been drafted to provide sufficient medium and long-term parking at the station, and to ensure that this parking, which differs from operational railway development, is subject to appropriate planning control. The numbers set out are based on a robust forecast of demand for parking at the station.

The purpose of subsection (4)(c)(i) is to exclude short-term parking from this control as it is part of the operation of the railway. For example, it is used by people being dropped off or people collecting passengers at the station, or parking to do so. This could have been more accurately described as “drop-off” rather than “parking”. Indeed, many stations around the country already have separate provision for short-term parking for people to collect passengers or to drop them off.

We do not think it would be appropriate to amend clause 23, as the commercial strategy for parking at the station has yet to be developed, and the proposed amendment would have the effect of fixing parking arrangements too soon. Also, by defining short-term as being up to 12 hours, the amendment risks removing day-long parking from the control in clause 23, which we do not believe is the intent.

The hon. Gentleman mentioned someone who might want to do business all day in London. It may be that, if he gets a very early train, 12 hours would not be sufficient to complete the return journey, despite the fact that HS2 will be such a fast train. The person visiting Birmingham or London might well have time to have dinner and still get back at their expected time.

As parking strategy is considered by the operator of the car park, I suspect it will be to keep the car park full. The pricing and timings of the parking would be designed to maximise the income and ensure that the provision is taken up to the maximum extent.

The hon. Gentleman talked about whether we might be in danger of creating extra car journeys. If parking were restricted, either by duration or price, many passengers would choose to travel to stations by taxi and, therefore, there would be four car journeys associated with the day trip he referred to, rather than two if the passenger left their car at the station.

Looking at the environmental impact, in 10 or more years from now, we will see much more sustainable vehicles in the national fleet. Even the vehicles operating at the moment, if they get their diesel engines fixed, will work a lot better than at the moment. We have already seen a large take-up in the number of electric cars on our roads. I suspect that will continue to increase.

The hon. Gentleman asked why there were only five coach spaces. From my experience at stations such as York, which I use regularly, one does not see coaches picking up large numbers of people. People going on group holidays might do that but, by and large, one does not see large groups of people travelling by train at  the moment. Many people will come to the station by bus and other forms of sustainable transport. If a coach were picking up passengers, the chances are it would be there for only a short time to arrive at the car park and pick up that group.

The mix between coach and car will need to be addressed at the time. That could well be flexible, as it is only a case of painting a few additional white lines on the car park.

The hon. Gentleman said that this was a probing amendment. He raises perfectly valid points but we do not need to rush our fences. They will need to be considered at the point that the car park is put into use by passengers. That may well be before the operation of the railway. If the car park is not used for construction, it may be possible to get income from the car park before the railway is available.

I hope my explanation reassures the hon. Gentleman, and that he will withdraw his amendment.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

I hope the workers will not be charged for working on the site. That would be over the top. I hope they will be able to turn up for work and not think about paying car-parking fees.

Photo of Andy McDonald Andy McDonald Shadow Minister (Transport)

Health workers do but, hopefully, it will not happen on this occasion. Perhaps we can have better practice for HS2. There will undoubtedly be a very large area where they can park their vehicles, so perhaps the Minister could reflect on that.

I understand what the Minister is saying and his clarification is helpful. If I were being unkind I would say that his telling us that we should not insert this provision about short-term car parking in the Bill now prompts the question why the Bill specifies 7,500 car spaces and five spaces for coaches, but I think he has addressed that. I am also grateful that he has made it clear that he contemplates the five parking spaces for coaches for dropping off passengers and not for long-term parking.

As he said, all of that will come out in the wash, but the basic principle of the amendment is to encourage people to use trains and not make unnecessary journeys. He is also right about the 12 hours. People may be able to travel to London, do their business and get back for dinner before they have even set off, it will be so quick; so we look forward to those developments. I beg to ask leave to withdraw the amendment, having been satisfied with the Minister’s clarification.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.

Clause 23 ordered to stand part of the Bill.