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Itís the Oscars, The Brits, No, itís the British Parking Awards

May, 2014

By Peter Guest

The British parking Industry celebrated the event of the season when more than 400 people gathered March 7 in London for the 2014 British Parking Awards ceremony. The event was held at the Lancaster Hotel, overlooking Hyde Park, one of the better addresses in the capital, and I have to say, a good time was had by all.

Well, not everyone obviously – not the people who were nominated and didn’t get the nod – their day was probably not too great. But if Hollywood A-listers can take it on the chin, I am sure that a regional parking manager can hold back the tears, while perhaps seeking consolation in the free booze.

This event has been running for more than a decade now, and the organizers – the UK magazine Parking Review, which is in turn celebrating 25 years this year – do a bang-up job. Before they stepped in, the British Parking Association (BPA) had tried, and failed, to do something similar, but somehow it just didn’t work. However, Parking Review got it just right, and now it is the parking awards event to be seen at.

So to the awards. There are, I guess, three main groups. The first awards are for things, carparks and technology; the second, for groups of people; and third, a set of awards for individuals, both those near the end of their career who have made a difference and those young whippersnappers who look as if they might turn out OK.

The full list, which is below, would take too long to go through, but I will try to pick out a few highlights.

Partnerships are becoming the name of the game in municipal operations in the UK. Cash-starved councils are waking up to the idea that if they combine their services, they can make real savings from initiatives such as shared computer systems.

One ticket-processing service certainly costs less to operate than three, even if it’s three times bigger, and economies-of-scale certainly help the bottom line when buying new meters if you are getting three times as many.

The first of these partnerships is the West London Alliance, where three of its six boroughs (Brent, Ealing and Hounslow) have merged elements of their services. I was involved in tendering for this with a potential service provider, so I know there was some way to go to make things fully joined up, but the project has progressed far enough to get this year’s Partnership award.

There were few surprises with the Parking Technology award. It went to the Westminster City Council and Smart Parking for their on-street parking sensor project. Call me cynical, but I just wonder how much value this will add long-term.

Many years ago, someone tried to sell me this type of technology for the 70,000 parking spaces in Abu Dhabi, UAE. Their vision of a whole city using self-powered parking sensors as a control mechanism – based on a few experiments in the lab and trial of half a dozen units in their carpark – just didn’t do it for me.

As one of the judges, I am conscious that we have to largely take entries at face value, although one or two hopefuls have hit the back of the bin after a discrete phone call or two. So, at the awards ceremony, there was a stifled laugh when after one shortlisted entry was announced, my guest leaned over to tell me that the nominated client had just contacted his company to replace the said equipment because it didn’t work.

On the people front, the Young Parking Professional of the Year award went to Katy Spain. The Parking Services Manager for the Ceredigion County Council, West Wales, she was faced with potential meltdown when the police unilaterally decided to withdraw from parking enforcement, even although it was a statutory duty.

Of course, chaos ensued, and drivers who had previously cheered the police at the thought of being able to park anywhere they wanted, soon found that others had the same idea. Aberystwyth, the county’s main town, became gridlocked, bus services broke down, businesses couldn’t get or make deliveries, and emergency services struggled to respond when there was an incident.

Katy Spain took the problem by the throat and put through the necessary application to take over the job. She then got a whole parking operation, and pulled order out of the chaos. A well-deserved award.

Lynn Witham was one of the giants of the UK parking industry, being heavily involved at the start of municipal parking enforcement here and latterly as the first female president of the British Parking Association. Lynn died last year, and in her memory, the judges created an Inspiration Award.

The recipients were a team of students called Generation WhY from Northumbria University – recognized for its innovative approach to re-imaging how parking can be marketed and enforced – and Caroline Sheppard, Chief Adjudicator of the UK Traffic Penalty Tribunal.

The team’s project included a 120-page book (“Parking Futures”), commissioned by Sheppard, and a series of presentations that challenged the parking profession to rethink how it engages and educates the motoring public, and looks afresh at the business of parking enforcement.

Some of the ideas are, frankly, bonkers, but there is, in this, the germ of an idea that hopefully will, at some point, feed back to a better way of doing things.



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.


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