Parking set to be chaos

Norfolk looks set for 12-months of traffic chaos after it emerged there will be no effective parking enforcement on the county's streets from early next year.

Norfolk looks set for 12-months of traffic chaos after it emerged there will be no effective parking enforcement on the county's streets from early next year.

The police are ready to scrap traffic wardens with the county council taking over responsibility for street parking as part of government moves to de-criminalise breaches. However, yesterday it was revealed the authority will not be able to take on the job until 2010 - leaving the county's streets in limbo.

Discussions are underway to broker a solution but members of Norfolk County Council were told: “Removal of warden support will leave a year with no systematic enforcement of parking restrictions outside the city of Norwich.”

Police chiefs have not allocated any funding to parking enforcement in next year's budget and the force's wardens have been found new jobs, including as police community support officers.

There are already concerns that patrols have tailed off. In West Norfolk, Labour councillor Irene MacDonald has begun collecting photographs of illegally parked cars to highlight the severity of the problem. Two part-time wardens are responsible for the entire Yarmouth borough, meaning they can only respond to complaints rather than conduct patrols.

Ms MacDonald said: “This is devastating news and I am appalled that we could have an even worse situation than we have now. Currently in King's Lynn there is a virtual breakdown in any enforcement and I'm sure it's the same elsewhere.

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“This is a near lawless situation and both the county council and the police should not be sitting by and letting it happen.”

Councils nationwide were supposed to introduce traffic wardens to replace existing police wardens at the start of this year. However, the government changed this target to October and then next April after it became clear many authorities would not be ready. There is now no specific target, although councils are expected to takeover as soon as possible.

Adrian Gunson, cabinet member for planning and transportation, blamed the situation on the ongoing review of council boundaries.

He said: “The county and district councils are reluctant to commit to this because we could be wasting a lot of money depending on the outcome of the local government reorganisation. This is another example of the problems caused by the local government review.”

County hall is expected to eventually provide cover on behalf of the districts. Norfolk police currently employs ten wardens responsible for covering the whole county, with the exception of Norwich where city hall is already in charge.

The council and police are continuing their bid to find an interim solution. Mr Gunson added: “We are discussing a number of options with the police, including how we can address the police budget situation and the level of enforcement we can offer next year.

“I am confident we can come up with a short-term solution but it is fair to say the police have downgraded the importance of parking enforcement because of their other priorities.”

Conservative councillor Michael Carttiss said: “I have no expectation that we are going to get civil parking enforcement before 2010 at the earliest and we are going to get traffic chaos.”

PCs and police community support officers can hand out parking tickets. They have recently conducted high-profile campaigns to tackle specific complaints - such as an action week currently taking place in the Sprowston area. However, they will not enforce parking laws as a matter of routine.

Traffic manager David Law told yesterday's Yarmouth area committee that the existing two part-timers operating in the borough do not provide sufficient cover to go on regular patrols. He insisted PCSOs could not be expected to bridge the gap as it is not their function.