A guide to choose the right survey

Choose your survey…

This is a guide designed to help you choose the right survey for your needs


Parking stress surveys

A detailed knowledge of things, such as times of usage and areas where occupancy levels are above average, are factors that can influence and change parking patterns. This information helps architects, surveyors and developers to project manage a development cost-effectively. A ‘parking stress survey’ involves planning and carrying out the survey and then producing reports, maps and photographs to meet the clients’ requirements.

Parking stress reflects the number of parked vehicles as a percentage of the amount of authorised available parking. The parking stress survey highlights any potential areas of concern and gives detailed feedback on the current situation on the street.

An additional feature of a parking stress survey is that it can assess compliance with the Traffic Signs Regulations and General Directions 2002 (TSRGD), a piece of legislation that regulates the placement and quality of signs and lines on the roads.


Occupancy and duration surveys

These surveys are important as they help operators determine when car parks are at their busiest and when demand for space is low. Information gleaned from these surveys includes: how long people park for; what sections of the population use a car park; and local parking habits.

Asset and condition surveys

Making sure that signs and lines are in the correct place and give accurate information is crucial for both local authorities and developers. An ‘asset survey’ will record the location, fixing and condition of traffic signs, lines and street furniture and make sure that they are complying with the TSRGD. A ‘condition survey’ will assess local parking signs and lines to ensure that they are in a good condition and compliant with the legislation that governs signage on the roads.


Inventory surveys

When private car park operators and local authorities are assessing the usage and demand for parking, they need basic information such as number and type of parking spaces available. For example, a local authority might need to prove it is already providing enough Blue Badge spaces while a supermarket might want to advertise its parent & child parking. An ‘inventory survey’ will provide a full picture on parking at a specific locale,

providing information needed to understand the relationship between provision and demand.


Feasibility studies

A feasibility study will look at factors such as the current cost of parking, the demand for parking, seasonal or daily variations in demand, and trends that could impact on parking in the future. For example, if a car park currently charges 50p to park for two hours and the operator feels it is unlikely to change in the near future there is then no reason to upgrade its parking equipment to accept credit cards as investment outweighs

Ensuring your signs and lines are enforceable

Under statutory guidance on Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE), all traffic signs and road markings must be in compliance with legal requirements and must match their respective traffic orders in every detail. Failure to do so can result in a large number of Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) having to be refunded at a cost that, in these times of austerity measures, local authorities can all afford.


There are two areas that local authorities need to be aware of when considering the validity of their signs and lines. One is their condition and compliance with TSRGD. Legislation states that lines ‘shall be of the size, colour, and type shown on [the] diagram [in the TSRGD]’ but it does not mention their condition. If a case reaches adjudication then the final decision is always down to the adjudicator’s discretion as cited in the example below from the Traffic Penalty Tribunal Website:


Inadequate condition of road markings (PL 1477)


The appellant parked on a worn double yellow line, mistaking it for an unrestricted single yellow line, and was issued with a PCN. He had been assisted in his misapprehension by the fact that the time plate referring to the double yellow-line restriction was obscured by foliage so that he did not see it. The Adjudicator found that the road markings were not in adequate condition.


The appeal was allowed.


The other area that local authorities need to be aware of is whether their signs and lines accurately reflect the respective traffic orders. Whereas the condition of a sign or line and their compliance with TSRGD can be spotted easily on-site, it is much more difficult to determine whether signs and lines reflect their traffic orders. It is important that local authorities check for both by conducting regular audits and compliance surveys of all street furniture. These should be conducted at regular intervals, every 12 to 18 months, to ensure that any changes made on-street and the condition of all signs and lines is up to date. To achieve this there are a number of methods to ensure the efficiency of these surveys and ensure that they are cost-effective:


Communication and joint working


Generally, a number of different departments within a local authority are affected by the street furniture. Traffic, Highways and Parking departments are often all involved in the management of parking regulations and good communication between all departments is key. The parking department tends to be the eyes and ears of the local authority on-street and procedures should be put in place so that both Civil Enforcement Officers (CEOs) and Notice Processing staff can notify the appropriate member of staff of any irregularities of signs and lines. This could include a CEO making note of a sign being missing or a line being too worn to be seen or a notice processer who has received an appeal letter which highlights a problem with certain signs and lines. Ensuring that the procedures are in place to rectify these issues immediately saves the council from the possibility that other appeals will be lodged.




Traffic orders tend to be long and are often complicated due to the number of amendments that have been added over the years. This is where technology can help. Having your traffic orders mapped onto a GIS system such as MapInfo or Esri can make surveying much easier. MapInfo and Esri provide a visual representation of your traffic orders which means that the surveyor can easily walk the street and eye-match the traffic orders with the signs and lines that are actually there. This saves time and ensures a cost-effective method of surveying. This can be taken further by adopting map-based schedules for your traffic orders. Many local authorities are now using map-based schedules in place of the traditional text schedules. This visual approach is perceived to be easier and quicker to understand both for parking staff using the traffic orders and the general public.


Another option for a quick check on signs and lines is to use Google Street View. This has recently provided unprecedented access to close-up street images, to the point where it can serve as a record of the signing and lining in many cases. It is important to remember when using Google Street View is that it is often outdated and it should never completely replace a full audit of street furniture. It should also be noted that Google’s terms and conditions do not allow the use of their photography for business purposes.


Resources and Staff Knowledge


The management of your traffic orders and ensuring that they match what is on-street does involve a number of resources. It is important that staff are kept aware of any changes in legislation and TSRGD amendments such as the new signing options available under the Department for Transport (DfT) Traffic Signs Review. It is also important that the team members charged with writing and managing the local authority’s traffic orders are experienced and sufficiently trained to effectively keep all orders and mapping systems up to date. Problems often occur when changes have been made on-street and the resources are not in place to ensure that amendments are made to traffic orders and/or mapping systems.


If the council is short on resources both the on-street surveying and traffic order management can be contracted out to an experienced consultant who can provide either surveying services or even a traffic order or mapping bureau service. This involves the consultant writing the council’s traffic orders or updating their mapping system, such as ParkMap, and although this involves a cost to the council, this cost is a lot less than the potential cost of refunding a large number of PCNs if faults are discovered.



A look at Blended learning

Alpha Parking Seeks to Mix the Perfect Blend


Mention the phrase ‘blended learning’ to most people in the parking industry, and you are likely to be greeted by puzzled looks. Although the concept is a relatively new one, it is more than just a trendy ‘buzzword’ which will soon be forgotten. I believe the time is now ripe to use blended learning, an approach where delegates learn through a mix of different methods and activities; for instance, not just face to face learning but also via techniques such as e-learning and the use of interactive tools.


However the new Government’s policies pan out during the latest parliamentary term, we all know that funds are tight and local government, along with the public sector in general, is facing a severe squeeze. Yet standards of customer service and professionalism in the parking industry cannot slacken, and the ongoing training and development of parking professionals remains a legal requirement under the 2004 Traffic Management Act.


So, every pound invested in training over the next five years has to deliver maximum ‘bang for its buck’. During the last financial year alone, Alpha Parking has delivered around 77 training workshops, hosting approximately 500 plus delegates, and what has proved most effective is using a variety of training tools and techniques.


It’s becoming increasingly clear that a ‘one size fits all’ approach certainly doesn’t work in our diverse industry. From experience I know there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ training course in the parking industry; we have to cater for a tremendous amount of skills which need to be developed in the most appropriate ways. Examples range from understanding signs and lines to applying legislation and the writing and interpretation of traffic orders.


Trainers and their programmes must be flexible enough to deal with a tremendously varied mix of people, in terms of gender, ethnic background, ages and the different experience levels of the people undergoing the training. Just as there is no such thing as a ‘typical’ local authority – we’ve run courses for councils with about 50 CEOs (civil enforcement officers) and the 15 back office staff to support them, as well as training four CEOs and their single member of administrative support at a smaller local authority – there is no ‘typical’ delegate.


Everyone has different ways of learning and individuals are stimulated and motivated by different approaches. For instance, some people like to learn in peace and quiet while others prefer to take part in interactive sessions. To get the best results, you need a mix of approaches and delivery methods to meet the needs of your audience. Some of these will employ existing technology such as the internet, to download an ‘e-course’ perhaps, but often there may be no substitute for face-to-face support and shared experiences.


And there’s simply no excuse for training to be dull – your training provider should work hard to really engage the delegates in learning tasks. If the training experience is enjoyable, supportive and varied, people will learn much better!


Another advantage in these financially constrained times is that blended learning can see delegates complete their course at a faster pace. For example, compared to a traditional classroom based course that takes five days, a blended learning solution might cut the duration by two days.


That means CEOs or Notice Processing staff can learn more efficiently, and be back dealing with the public that bit quicker. This benefit could also be applied to other employees such as supervisors and team leaders.


With the new financial year already underway, and training managers again considering how to make their budget go as far as possible, can I recommend a few simple tips?

  • Be clear about your objective for the training. What precisely do you want to achieve?

  • Assess what methods; courses and learning styles are best for your audience

  • Looking at the different types of learning on the market; and don’t try to cram in all your courses at once

  • Remember to assess what works best for your people. ‘Hard assessment’ – by which I mean exams and quizzes – should form part of this process.

  • Ideally, it is best to build up a long-term relationship with your training provider so he/she really gets to know your organisation, its people and aims over a period of time and can tailor the very best solutions


The latter may sound like a panacea in these difficult times. But given the multiple, complex challenges often facing parking operators today, making the right investment in developing your people is not something to be taken lightly.



A chance to shine!

The last few years has seen an exponential increase in the number of accredited courses available to the parking sector. Staff in a number of different job roles have benefitted from this with qualifications now available for, amongst others, Civil Enforcement Officers, Notice Processors, CCTV operators, Private Land Enforcement and Parking Team Leaders and Managers. This can only be positive for the sector as a whole which, with the ever increasing number of cars on our streets, has an important role to play in managing congestion within the UK. So where do we go from here? What does the future hold for training within the parking sector?


The introduction of accredited training has gone a long way to increasing the professionalism of the sector by equipping all involved with the knowledge necessary to carry out their roles efficiently and accurately. However, the parking sector still suffers from a negative public image and is seen by the general public as solely a means for local authorities to make an extra income. This is shown by the fact that there are still many groups and individuals, including the mainstream press, who attempt to undermine the sector. We are aware of a number of local authorities who have received Freedom of Information Requests regarding the training that staff receive; an obvious attempt to find fault in the way the sector operates.  Combating this negative image is not easy. Professional qualifications go some way to do this and training has an extremely important role to play in the future of the parking sector.


There is room for further accredited training courses which will aid the increased professionalism of the sector and also create further career paths for those that work within it. An area that I believe needs some specific attention is that of traffic orders. Traffic orders play an important role in parking enforcement and even the smallest error can have huge repercussions for local authorities. The drafting and making of traffic orders is a specific skill that seems to be on the wane. A professional qualification would help to encourage people to take on the role of traffic order maker and the sector as a whole would benefit in the long term.


The creation of a career path in general would also be a benefit. It is often said that many people working within the parking sector ‘fell into’ their roles rather than actively choosing this career path. However, that is not to say that there shouldn’t be a specific route into and through all levels of the job. There will be qualifications available for a career with the development of parking apprenticeships and the introduction of levels 3, 4, and 5 in leadership and management. However, there needs to be a framework in place for this to truly work.


There has been some interest from local authorities in the creation of training plans for staff. Alpha Parking have recently won the contract to develop a training plan for London Borough of Hounslow council which will span the next four years. The aim is to maintain high standards and professionalism within the parking department by encouraging staff to take courses and qualifications to increase their skills base. This is something that would benefit all local authorities and private companies within the sector and believe that the formation of standardised training and career plans will eventually roll out across the sector.


Standardised training plans also allow local authorities to share training resources going forward. Joined-up thinking when it comes to training will only benefit all within the sector. Sharing resources means that local authorities can ensure that training is efficient and cost-effective. A joined-up approach may also open the door for funding from the Skills Funding Agency. These are all things that are in early stages of development but in general the parking sector is making the right moves forward.

All aboard for City and Guilds Notice Processing

Southampton and Portsmouth City Councils to undergo City and Guilds Notice Processing Training


Southampton and Portsmouth City Council’s Notice Processing staff will become the first councils to be trained by Alpha Parking in the new City and Guilds Notice Processing Level 3 Qualification in September.


Southampton’s seven strong notice processing team who are part of the council’s ISO 1001-2008 accredited parking services will travel to Portsmouth City Council to join their nine staff and undergo the training in modular form. Though there are fierce football rivalries between the two cities, the council’s share training and knowledge on a regular basis which helps to maintain the high professional standards they set themselves.


The City and Guilds qualification is the first of its kind to be specifically designed for notice processing staff and gives delegates the skills necessary to pursue a career in this office based parking role. The course is taught in two units with the mandatory first unit providing an introduction to notice processing and information management. There is a choice of second unit depending on whether the delegate works in public or private enforcement, both of which develop delegates’ learning further. All units are assessed by multiple choice exams.



“We are delighted to be up and running in delivering this qualification” says Alpha Parking Director, Penny Winder. “It is an important step for the parking sector and we hope to see more qualifications like this being developed to help up-skill those who work within the industry”.


“Being able to share the training with Portsmouth City Council has provided us with the opportunity to limit the amount of time our staff are away from their desks and helps them to continue to provide a quality service whilst gaining a valuable City and Guilds qualification” says Southampton City Council’s Office Manager (Highways and Parking), Dave King. “Alpha Parking are supplying us with cost-effective, professional training that meets the individual needs of both councils”



“Portsmouth City Council is committed to providing staff with on-going support and training to ensure the council offers the best possible service” adds Portsmouth City Council’s Parking Office Manager, Denise Bastow. “For too long notice processing teams have been overlooked and we are delighted that there is finally a nationally recognised qualification that recognises their achievements”.


Mapping…The Future…?

When it comes to the lines and signs on our roads, a standard approach is the best option, says Penny Winder, But how can we ensure conformity?


The ‘schedule’ element of the traffic order provides information to define the geographical position and physical extent of the restriction. How long should a yellow line be? Which street should be restricted to residents’ parking?


Traffic orders and schedules, have provided the legal foundation for parking restrictions for many years. For the local authority implementing the order, schedules need to be as free from ambiguity as possible, because any error can result in huge embarrassment for the local authority, as well as heavy financial costs — both in terms of rectifying the error and paying any claims that arise as a result of incorrect signage.For anyone new to the parking profession, a traffic order (TO) is the legal instrument by which traffic authorities — local councils, London boroughs, metropolitan councils or the Department for Transport — implement most controls on the road, such as signs, lines or parking restrictions.


The ‘schedule’ element of the TO provides information to define the geographical position and physical extent of the restriction. How long should a yellow line be? Which street should be restricted to residents’ parking? Between what times should parking be prohibited in that area Originally, schedules were always text documents providing a description in words of the location and extent of the restriction. However, words are open to interpretation and anyone who has worked in a local authority parking department for any length of time can probably regale you with stories about mis-interpretations and the consequences, As the years have passed, technology has moved forward enormously so we are now at a stage where schedules can be provided in the form of maps. All of which has sparked an inevitable debate. Schedules as maps are being advocated by some powerful institutions, such as Parking and Traffic Appeals Service (PATHS) — one of the adjudicating bodies dealing with appeals by motorists against penalty charge notices, and in the Guidance for New Procedures for Traffic Orders, due to be issued by the Department of Transport.


In some ways, the argument in favour of mapping schedules is strong, There has never been a standardised approach to text schedules, and this has led to problems of interpretation. For example, one person’s understanding of from the junction of High Street and Market Place” can be very different from that of someone else, depending on how you define “junction”.


Inevitably, there is room for human error, Lengthy pages of text, complicated drawings and convoluted descriptions can lead to all sorts of mistakes, Map-based schedules, on the other hand, call on the user to have the skill-set necessary to use the technology, as well as assuming a certain standard of map-reading ability. This becomes very relevant in areas that are heavily built up, as the map can become very crowded. These schedules are also more expensive, and more time-consuming to implement, than text-based equivalents. However, one advantage they do hold, is that they break down communication barriers. Through the use of clearly marked maps, restrictions become transparent to anyone for whom English is not their first language, as is often the case. The schedules also give a more easily defined and consistent approach and, once the user is familiar with the technology and mapping system, they are easier to apply to any situation.


So which side is the winner?


The map-based schedule is visually appealing, more easily understood and user-friendly and provides a clearer audit trail of changes and developments. All of these have to be advantages but the conversion can be an exercise requiring high skill levels and some cost.



Great to be mentioned in Lynn News

“Failure to address Downham Markets parking problems will affect viability”


Inspectors from Alpha Parking have warned that failing to address the parking problems in Downham will affect the town’s future.

The team has also advised that some form of charging can only achieve the investment needed to need the demand.


Click here to read the full news