Council acts to head off parking chaos

TRANSPORT bosses last night put in place temporary measures to avert parking chaos in Norfolk - but critics questioned why a solution had not been found sooner.

TRANSPORT bosses last night put in place temporary measures to avert parking chaos in Norfolk - but critics questioned why a solution had not been found sooner.

The announcement came after councillors expressed fears there would be chaos on streets across the county because of a delay in Norfolk County Council being ready to take over responsibility for parking laws from the police.

The authority would not take control until April 2010 - two years after it had originally been required to take over. County Hall has now pledged to foot the bill for police traffic wardens for another 12 months.

A report prepared by Norfolk County Council officers and presented to Yarmouth area committee members had stated that no agreement had been reached, although talks were under way. It added: “Removal of warden support will leave a year with no systematic enforcement of parking restrictions outside the city of Norwich.”

Norfolk police had not allocated any funding for parking enforcement in next year's budget as it looked to divert cash to other priorities. The force had already delayed the handover for a year as the county and district councils were reluctant to commit to a new system as they awaited the outcome of the review of local government in the region.

However, Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, said yesterday that County Hall would never have allowed a complete lack of enforcement for 12 months.

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He added: “I am glad to say that we have already reached agreement in principle for the county council to cover the cost of the police maintaining the current level of parking enforcement during 2009/10.

“At the same time the county council is preparing proposals for a permanent civil parking enforcement system in Norfolk, except Norwich, where it already exists, from April 2010. It makes no sense to introduce this in 2009, given that the local government review may create new authorities a year later.”

Chief Supt Bob Scully said: “The constabulary will be working with Norfolk County Council to ensure the role of traffic wardens remains in place.”

He added that when the responsibility for traffic wardens is handed to the council, the force will still be able to provide traffic support at hotspots and peak times.

Labour councillor Irene MacDonald, who highlighted concerns over the situation at the authority's last full council meeting, said the belated response displayed complacency.

She said: “Why has it taken so long when the council has known about this for two years?

“Car-parking problems have been an issue long before this blew up. This will provide some help but what I want to know is how the council will target key problems this year and beyond.”

Ms MacDonald added that council control of parking enforcement was needed sooner rather than later as residential areas in Norfolk were regularly clogged with cars visiting town centres. A comprehensive system of parking permits was needed, she claimed.

It emerged that two part-time wardens are currently responsible for covering the entire Yarmouth borough - meaning they can only respond to specific complaints rather than patrol the streets.

Mr Gunson said: “I sincerely hope that this does not lead to a rash of irresponsible and illegal parking - not least because a lot of people will then find themselves with parking tickets.

“Whether or not the current level of parking enforcement is sufficient is a separate question, and one best left for the authorities that operate civil parking enforcement from April 2010.”

He said residents would be given a chance to express their views during 2009.