Is the end in sight for inconsiderate parking in Suffolk?
Suffolk last week took a step nearer to taking charge of enforcing parking along streets, writes Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council’s deputy leader and cabinet member for highways, transport and rural affairs.
She says it should see an end to the current free for all where some inconsiderate drivers park wherever they like believing they can get away with it.
Our county is one of the last areas in England to take on Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE). It already operates in over 300 district council areas in the country and of the 20 areas without CPE, six are in Suffolk.
Traditionally parking was enforced by the police. However, parking has become such a low priority for them that responsibility has been transferred to the local councils which are already responsible for public car parks in their areas. Ipswich Borough Council has successfully operated CPE in the town since 2005.
So why is CPE needed? In some of our towns across Suffolk, selfish drivers are parking without any regard to the fact that they are blocking the road causing traffic to build up or are cutting access to people’s homes or business premises. In extreme cases, our emergency services rushing to answer 999 calls have been held up by badly parked vehicles.
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SCC has been working with our colleagues in the district and borough councils towards CPE coming into force next April. That is not going to happen because the Department of Transport (DfT) is so focused on Brexit, officials have not got the time to approve the country’s application for CPE which was submitted in April this year. Much as I would like to tell you now when it will be implemented – I can’t because we haven’t been given any timescale yet from DfT.
Meanwhile the county council is working in a methodical way to complete the preparations for the transfer for responsibilities and the approval of a Suffolk Parking Management Strategy was just another step on the way. It is a technical, high-level document setting the framework for how parking will be managed. There are various myths circulating about CPE that I feel need correcting. For starters, scare mongers have said that CPE spells the end of free parking in Suffolk. It doesn’t. It is important to note that moving these powers to the local authorities means that those authorities will have the autonomy to manage parking more appropriately for their community – it may be that a community continues with free parking, or that they increase or decrease charging depending on the demand and requirement.
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Another myth is that we will employ disreputable parking contractors. That is not true. Enforcement will be the responsibility of the district and borough councils, who already employ teams to provide enforcement in their car parks. Local people will be making local enforcement decisions. We recognise that parking charges can have an impact on the local economy. It is for that reason that we have included in our strategy the requirement that several factors are considered before agreeing charges, including the strength of the local economy and charges in neighbouring areas. Any charging introduced can only be set after consultation with residents and businesses.
Another interesting point to note, that when the police issue fixed penalty tickets the fine is sent to the government and does not stay in Suffolk. Under CPE, the income from penalty charge notices will remain in Suffolk, to pay for the enforcement and any surplus can be used to finance improvements to car parks, public transport infrastructure, highway and environmental improvements.
Until CPE happens, Suffolk Constabulary will continue to deal with illegal parking outside of Ipswich, within the limited resources available to them. Further information can be obtained online by visiting www.suffolk.police.uk. If there are local concerns regarding illegal parking, you can contact your Safer Neighbourhood Team by email or call 101.
Councillor Mary Evans, Suffolk County Council’s Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Highways, Transport and Rural Affairs