Magazine

Big Ben

In the UK, Itís ĎAny Excuse for a Drinkí

By Peter Guest

It’s party time over here in England’s green and pleasant, as once again we head toward the British Parking Association (BPA) “any excuse for drink” awards event. This is organized by Parking Review, one of two trade magazines published here in the UK.

Deadlines mean that I am barred on pain of death from saying who has won what, because I have to finish this column a week before the BPA event. Apparently the organizers had released an embargoed press release for another event, and it was all over the Internet two hours later. So, sorry, JVH, I will tell you next time.



My role as a BPA judge is to go and inspect the aspirants for the both the “Best New Carpark” and “Best Refurbishment” awards, and it’s amazing what some people consider worthy of recognition. This year, I was helped by another judge; we split the country in two, and he got the best of the deal.

We had a fair old debate (for “debate” read “argument” with shouting and, almost, table banging) about how you judge best.

In the blue corner is a well-designed and -built structure, but on a site that is really just a bit too small. Result – even though it’s only a few months old, the carpark already shows those tell-tale scrapes and black marks where drivers don’t quite make the turn. In the red corner is a much more utilitarian building, but with all the dimensions just that bit bigger and just that much easier to drive.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I applaud the inventiveness of someone who makes something out of nothing and squeezes in a facility on a sub-optimal site. but I cannot pretend that such a solution is anything other than a compromise. Who won? Check back next month.

Refurbishments are always difficult to judge. The main constraints of the structure are fixed, and the contractors are always limited by what the client funds.

I well remember going to one site where the owner had paid millions to fix the structure, and it looked great, but when I looked round, they had decided to save a couple of hundred dollars by leaving a rusty old handrail out of the contract.

One site stands out for me this year, but not in a good way. The carpark had been rated as the worst in the country, and the owner decided to spend big money to restore it, rather than replace with a new structure.

From the entry form, I was expecting great things. But, um, if you are claiming to be the best, a few tips:

(1) Do not nail the fire escape doors shut;

(2) When you lay a new waterproof membrane, do not lay it over the drainage gratings;

(3) When you install the new lighting system that you are so proud of, do not mount the rooftop columns on blocks that are set so as to block the drainage channels, and do ensure that the screws holding the interior lights in position are more than finger tight.

A prize winner? Not even close.

One project over which I must eat humble pie is the Talbot Road carpark, which started life in Blackpool about 80 years ago. This structure, one of the oldest in the UK, began as a parking facility built over the town’s bus station.

When I saw a presentation on this last year, I was fairly sniffy. For sure, the developers had done a great job on refurbishing and updating the building, but I queried the logic of spending so much to conserve a parking deck for the 21st century that was designed to park the Model T Ford and the Austin 7.

Surely it could never meet the needs of today’s cars, I suggested. Well, a friend has been there and tells me the parking deck layout is crazy, with perpendicular and angled parking all mixed up, but it works just fine. Sorry, Blackpool, I was wrong.

Other BPA awards are for people who have been outstanding in the way that they have done their jobs, ranging from Young Parking Professional to Lifetime Achievement, and various other awards for team and service performance and technology. It’s great fun, JVH; you should do something similar.

Last time in this space, I wittered on about our crazy fun government and how they were planning (a) to stop local authorities from using cameras to enforce parking regulations in places such as outside schools where bad parking threatens children’s lives; and (b) to allow private companies, some with an extremely questionable pedigree, to use the same technology to collect parking penalties off drivers who park on private land.

Now the little scamps are proposing to extend the local government remit to cover some moving traffic offenses. So, park outside a school and get a kid run over – not serious enough to allow the use of effective technology, because the driver can’t see you and it’s “unfair.” Pick up someone who stops part way across a junction and blocks the traffic flow for a few seconds, and hanging’s too good for them. And cameras are a definite OK, but only because we can’t shoot the bastards.

In September 2014, anyone living in Scotland gets to vote in a referendum on Scottish independence from the UK. It does seem to me that the government is going about this the wrong way round.

If there is a move to break up the United Kingdom, shouldn’t everyone in the UK get a say on the principle, not just a few million at one end of the island? If there is sufficient support, shouldn’t you then define what you mean by “independence” before the potential secessionists cast their votes?

At present, there are about 5 million people in Scotland, and anyone over age 16 gets to vote, even though the normal voting age is 18. The other 55 million of us in the UK have no say.

Of greater concern to me, though, is that people who get to vote don’t actually know what they are voting for. They get to vote a straight Yes/No to “independence,” but just what independence is has not been defined. And if there is a yes vote, it seems that only then does the horse trading start. In a sense, it has started already.

The leaders of the pro-independence Scots were very keen on adopting the euro a few years ago, but after the crash, they now want to

keep the pound in a currency union with the rest of the UK. “No, you won’t,” says the rest of the UK. “If you leave, you leave. We are not backing your economy.”

What’s this got to do with parking, I hear you ask? Well, in an independent Scotland – and even assuming that all the vehicles with a Scottish home address were transferred to a Scottish DMV – a very significant portion of the vehicles living and used in Scotland will have a “rest of the UK” registration, which means, of course, they would be totally outside any effective parking or traffic law enforcement using any kind of camera or ticket.



Peter Guest, a Consultant in the UK,

is PT’s Editor-at-Large on all things

British, European, Middle Eastern and Indian. Contact him at

peterguestparking@hotmail.co.uk.

Article Abstract from April, 2014




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