New parking measures on way to Yarmouth?

Permit parking and on-street ticket machines could be coming to towns across Norfolk as part of moves to give councils powers to deal with errant motorists.

Permit parking and on-street ticket machines could be coming to towns across Norfolk as part of moves to give councils powers to deal with errant motorists.

Currently only Norwich City Council runs its own parking enforcement which includes on-street and permit parking in some streets and in the rest of the county it is dealt with by traffic wardens managed by the police.

Norfolk County Council was supposed to take over the system in 2008, but the handover was delayed by the controversial local government review, which saw policymakers reluctant to set up a new system if there was a risk it could be swept away as part of any unitary changes.

But with the unitary issue apparently dead in the water councils are now keen to pick up the parking baton and the county council is working with other district authorities on a �40,000 feasibility study to draw up proposals for a new system.

The likelihood is that these would be in the larger urban areas such as King's Lynn and Yarmouth, where some on-street parking already exists, with the possibility of extending the role of council car park attendants so that they can issue on-street tickets, too.

But holiday hotspots such as Cromer where summer visitors can create parking headaches for residents, are also being considered.

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Businesses and householders in busier parts of Norfolk are becoming increasingly fed up with a lack of action against motorists parking on double yellow lines or leaving their cars all day in parking bays meant for short trips.

This year it emerged that thousands of people were either flouting parking laws or going unpunished as the number of traffic wardens was halved as part of a switch towards more police community support officers.

However the county council agreed to pay �150,000 to the police to try and keep some enforcement running outside of the city and the number of tickets issued has gone up.

Nick Daubney, leader of King's Lynn and West Norfolk Council, where problems have been acute, said he felt that districts should be able to go it alone in order to try and get a system running sooner in the worst hit areas.

“We need to get on with this because it's chaos in King's Lynn and to try and look at a countywide solution isn't realistic,” he said. John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk Council, said traders and residents in the district were pushing for action to sort out the parking problems.

“That's partly defined by the difficulties they have had in Diss where since the traffic wardens have stopped,” he said. “It's a high priority and in my mind I'd like to have something in place by next summer.”

Virginia Gay, leader of North Norfolk district council, said there was little or no enforcement in the district and she shared the frustration of those who had seen the deterioration in the service.

Chris Kutesko, special projects manager at Norfolk County Council, said a system was unlikely to be in place until 2011 because of the legal work needed reviewing local traffic orders.

“We are looking at what scope there is for things like residents' parking and on-street charges,” he said. “In a rural area such as Norfolk there are only limited areas where you can introduce this - there's no point having it in small villages, it's not what people want and it would be very difficult to enforce.

“We are not looking at it as a revenue generator. We are looking at it to improve parking.

“The feasibility study will be looking at the potential to adopt a more strategic way of looking at both off-street and on-street parking across the county and looking at what scope there is for residents permit parking.”

Work is due to start in earnest after Christmas, when the outcome of the local government review is expected to be clearer, and the �40,000 study will look at the pros and cons of a countywide or district-run system, and whether it should be run by councils or even private firms including Norse, the county council's commercial wing.

In the meantime Mr Kutesko said the council was working with police to tackle parking hotspots until a new system is in place.

“Neighbourhood policing teams are providing details of where the problems are and we are trying to target traffic wardens into those areas,” he added. “The number of parking tickets that have been issued have increased compared to previous years.”

The pressure on parking in Cromer is at its height in the summer, but is a noticeable part of town life all year.

There is a mix of ticketed council car parks, half hour shoppers' spots and an ever dwindling number of unregulated, free, stay-as-long-as-you-want spaces both near the centre of town and into the residential areas, used heavily by shop and office workers.

As in so many towns, locals, tourists and workers all compete for the space while those in charge of the council coffers rely on the money the paid for parking generates, which in turn is a vital source of income to keep council tax down.

In recent years, every now and then a few free spaces have disappeared to be replaced with double yellow lines, creating a slow cumulative effect of increasing the pressure on what remains.

For Sue Brown, who owns and runs the ceramic painting Sticky Earth Caf� and is chairman of the Cromer and District Chamber of Trade and Commerce, the idea of permit parking would be deeply unwelcome.

“Permit parking would just cause bigger problems than we already have and we as a chamber would be very unhappy about it,” said Mrs Brown.

“It would create yet another set of problems for businesses such as bed and breakfasts, and for office and shop workers.

“Many shop workers are on the national minimum wage and simply cannot afford to pay to park when they come to work.

“The problem would be pushed further and further into the residential areas.

“Personally I would have thought the amount of money spent on such machines would be better spent on employing someone to ensure the parking rules are being adhered to.”