Fears parking meters on way

Council leaders insist they will not introduce parking meters across Norfolk's market towns, despite a report showing that increased charges are needed to fund plans for a countywide team of traffic wardens.

Council leaders insist they will not introduce parking meters across Norfolk's market towns, despite a report showing that increased charges are needed to fund plans for a countywide team of traffic wardens.

Norfolk County Council is drawing up plans to take over responsibility for the issue from the police by next year.

Currently, only Norwich has its own civil parking team and the whole issue had been put on hold while the controversial unitary bid was being sorted out.

But with police no longer willing to provide a parking warden service, County Hall is expected to pick up the baton with the other districts, and take responsibility for issuing tickets and charges to errant motorists beyond the city. They will also be able to draw up plans for permit parking schemes for residents.

Yet funding could be a problem and, in the short term, Great Yarmouth Borough Council has agreed to pool the surplus it makes from its off- street car parks into the new fund instead of using it to pay for local transport schemes, while the county council will use the �150,000 it pays to Norfolk Constabulary to maintain the existing traffic wardens.

A report being considered by the county council's ruling cabinet is also warning that councils cannot rely on parking fines alone to pay for the scheme and must look at ways to increase on-street revenue from other sources to minimise the financial risk, including parking meters and permit schemes.

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“Despite the efficiencies and cost savings which have resulted from the close partnership working with the district councils, the business case continues to show an over-reliance on income from penalty charge notices,” the report said. “This will need to be resolved by developing action plans with each district council to increase on-street revenues from other sources in order to move forward to a sustainable longer-term solution.”

However, with the exception of Great Yarmouth and West Norfolk, where there are acute parking issues, most councils are opposed to the idea of more charging.

Simon Woodbridge, leader of Broadland District Council, said he felt the main parking problems were around schools and he did not foresee any charges being introduced.

“It's not a huge priority on Broadland's list,” he said. “We have always tried to avoid charging for car parks because it improves the economic vitality of our market towns and we will continue to do that.”

John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said he wanted “a light- touch approach, commensurate to drivers not overstaying their welcome in the limited number of streets where there is a waiting limit”.

“In South Norfolk we have only got three problem areas: one is in the vicinity around County Hall in Trowse, and the other two are in Diss, around the station and in the town centre,” he said. “There are certainly no plans to introduce meters or anything like that. We are committed to a light-touch approach because we don't really have a problem apart from those three sites.”

The aim is to provide a single service to the public with wardens wearing the same uniforms and working to standardised procedures, but behind the scenes the new service will in fact be arranged under different agreements between the authorities involved.

Both Great Yarmouth and West Norfolk borough councils are keen to take on the new powers themselves and have agreed to run the back office set-up for the other remaining districts.

South Norfolk wants to hand the job to its officers currently responsible for off-street car parks, while Broadland, Breckland and North Norfolk councils are looking at the county council to manage their service for them - possibly via its commercial offshoot company Norse.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for transport and travel at Norfolk County Council, said: “What will happen is that the districts that choose not to contribute will have less enforcement.

“The county council will not be insisting on having on-street parking charges in districts which don't want it. There's no way its going to be a revenue raiser as we can barely cover our costs; it's only necessary because a small minority of motorists park irresponsibly.”