Ban on learner driver lessons in Swanage car parks exposed by review

A 30 year old policy which prohibits teaching learner drivers in Swanage’s car parks has come to the forefront following Swanage Town Council’s review of its car park rules.

Prompted by the requirement to change the council’s off-street parking places order to make it easier to charge electric vehicles overnight in its car parks, the circulation of the updated policy with the inclusion of the ban on learner driver lessons has surprised residents.

Broad Road car park

Proposals are for Broad Road car park to be free overnight for those with residents’ permits from 6 pm to 8 am

Policy in place since 1993

It has emerged that while it was news to locals that the ban existed, the actual policy has been in place since 1993.

In the most recent 2007 version of the order, it says that no person, unless permitted otherwise, may use any part of a parking place or any vehicle left in a parking place:

  • For sleeping or camping purposes
  • For eating or cooking purposes
  • For the purpose of servicing or washing any vehicle or part thereof other than is reasonably necessary to enable that vehicle to depart from the parking place
  • For playing or participating in any sport or recreation
  • For the purpose of teaching learner drivers
North Beach car park

It’s proposed that North Beach car park will be £2 a day during the winter rather than free

Lack of driving instructors in Swanage

It’s not known why the last clause about learner drivers was added in 1993, although it is presumed that it was in response to a problem at the time.

It’s understood that no action has been taken against driving instructors or learner drivers using the Swanage car parks recently.

Today, the main problem is the lack of qualified driving instructors who are able or willing to come to Swanage to teach learner drivers, let alone practice in the car parks.

The Covid pandemic caused a backlog in numbers of students who wanted lessons and the test centres in Poole and Dorchester were overwhelmed when restrictions were lifted, leaving many unable to book a suitable slot for a test.

Most driving instructors now have long waiting lists.

Swanage co-op

One hour no return proposed for the Central (Co-op) car park

New rules

The proposed 2024 revision of the Swanage car park rules, does have some new changes. These include:

  • Increase daytime parking charges across most car parks and categories
  • Introduce free overnight parking between 9 pm and 8 am in the Broad Road, Main Beach and North Beach car parks
  • Introduce changes to the residents’ permit scheme, including increased periods of free parking in the long-stay car parks
  • Introduce provisions to regulate the charging of electric vehicles in certain car parks
  • Introduce allocated multi use parking bays for longer vehicles in certain car parks
  • Prohibit overnight parking of motorhomes in all car parks managed by Swanage Town Council
  • Introduce one-hour no return periods in the short-stay car parks
Swanage Town Council car parks currently have just six charging points

The car park review was initially prompted by the new measures required to increase the number of electric charging points in car parks

Tightening up of the policy

These proposals are mainly tweaks to the 2007 policy but the free overnight parking will be useful for those who have homes without parking and are usually at a workplace during the day.

The free parking is between 9 pm and 8 am but those with residents’ permits will get free parking from 6 pm.

The £1 all day parking charge at Main Beach car park and Broad Road car park over the winter is to be doubled to £2 and extended to include North Beach car park, which is currently free over the winter.

A one-hour no return period will be introduced for the short stay Central (Co-op) and Mermond Place car parks. This means that drivers won’t be able to park for two hours, drive round the block and then repark for another two hours, unless there’s been an hour gap.

The rules on who qualifies for a residents’ parking permit are being tightened up, so anyone applying now will have to show a council tax bill and a vehicle registration document which both display the same local address.

This means that those who have two homes in different places will have to register their car at the address local to Swanage to qualify for a residents’ permit.

The residents’ permit continues to give two hour free parking during the winter and a reduced rate during the summer in the residents’ car park in Horsecliffe Lane.

Exterior of Swanage Town Hall on High Street

Swanage Town Council’s car parks working party will respond to all comments

“All comments received will be reviewed”

Speaking at a Swanage Town Council meeting of the traffic management advisory committee on Wednesday 21st February 2024, the town clerk Martin Ayres said:

“We welcome all feedback on the proposals and thank everyone who has responded so far. One of the particular live issues has been the use of council car parks for learner drivers, which we didn’t anticipate as it’s not a new change.

“I wish to reassure that all comments received will be reviewed by the council’s car parks working party and councillors will decide whether or not to amend the draft order.

“All submissions will receive a formal response informing them whether or not their suggested changes have been made. This is all set down in statute so it’s a very thorough process.”

The aim is for a report to go to a Swanage Town Council meeting on Monday 25th March 2024 so that the order can take effect from Monday 1st April 2024.

Further information

  • To submit a response to the proposed revised car park policy email
  • The deadline for responses to the consultation is Wednesday 28th February 2024
  • View the documents:

The Swanage Town Council (Off-Street Parking Places) Order 2024 – Consultation draft notice of proposals
Statement of reasons
Existing Swanage Town Council (Off-Street Parking Places) Order 2007
Scale of charges showing current and proposed parking fees

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