‘It’s draconian’ - Council enforces parking fines town avoided for years
- Credit: Archant
Drivers in a market town will see their days of free parking numbered as a council takes over responsibility for enforcing tickets.
For years parking restrictions across Suffolk have been enforced by the police, but strained resources have meant residents in Bungay have avoided parking charges while leaving vehicles outside their homes.
Now, as a long-delayed policy passes through parliament seeing the power of civil parking enforcement (CPE) transfer from police to local authorities, many residents are worried about where they will leave their cars.
Confusion struck Broad Street in Bungay this week, after residents claimed new signs were installed stating drivers could only park for a maximum of one hour between 8am and 6pm from Monday to Saturday.
Suffolk Highways have confirmed the signage has been in place for at least 10 years, and may have been noticed again after the signs were cleaned.
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There are no on-street parking permits available in the town, meaning the only other option is to get a £350 annual ticket to use council operated car parks.
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"It looks like an income generation scheme more than let's do something sensible," said Richard Laurence, a writer who lives near Buttercross.
"If you cant park on the street for fear of getting an £80 parking ticket then you don't actually have another option unless you have the money."
Mr Laurence noted that the nearby towns of Beccles, Halesworth and Lowestoft all have permits available for on-street parking.
He said: "There are some enlightened councils who forgo the income to help the businesses in the small communities in our county. It hasn't happened here and it looks as if its going to become more draconian."
Pub owner James Pickard, 35, who founded an action group with neighbours to protest changes to parking enforcement, added: "No discussion has been had with any residents about residents' parking. That doesn't work with working hours. And you can't get much shopping done in an hour. I would be curious to know who this is supposed to benefit."
Why are the changes coming into place?
In June 2018, East Suffolk Council (ESC) announced their policies and strategies for taking over CPE, which includes tougher and more equal fines across the county.
No date has been confirmed for when ESC will officially take over enforcement.
Bungay town clerk Jeremy Burton said: "Parking enforcement is being transferred from police authority to local authorities via parliament on January 9. I am sure this handover will be handled with a great deal of thought across the whole of Suffolk including East Suffolk Council for Bungay."
Suffolk's Police and Crime Commissioner, Tim Passmore, said: "The council-run parking teams will, without doubt, provide more effective parking enforcement than the police because it will be their main focus - we have seen this in Ipswich where parking enforcement was de-criminalised some years ago.
"Moving the responsibility for parking to local authorities will free up police time for them to deal with more urgent issues, which makes perfect sense and that is why I committed £190K from the Constabulary's reserves to help establish the scheme."
But for Mr Pickard: "Ultimately that doesn't really change anything. The circumstances remain. People who had been able to park there freely will no longer be able to. Most people on this street own a car. We just want resident parking."
Another resident of Broad Street, Robert Webb, 27, said the street was fine until recently.
"The wardens and council knew that a good 80 or 90pc of the cars parked there are residents. Everyone who lives on Broad Street and other roads like that has nowhere to park. The permits have been a fight for Broad Street since I was 16 maybe even longer."
Local businessman James Hartcup, 62, called the decision 'political rubbish'.
He said: "It can only be for the benefit of the council to earn money there is no other reason. It's purely a matter of raising money. The people who can't afford it will suffer most, and it is only free parking that encourages people to come into town."
Rosie Pendlebury, who helped found the action group and also opposed the decision, criticised the council for not telling residents about the changes.
"My concerns would be that it doesn't appear there's been any impact assessment done, across the board. From what I gather local shopkeepers haven't been consulted either. If that's not been done it makes me wonder.
"It feels like a bureaucratic exercise rather than a conscious choice of town planning with a goal."
Ms Pendlebury added she could not afford a £350 car park ticket, nor any fines, and said she would consider moving if the enforcement goes ahead.
"Most people I've spoken to would happily pay a residents parking permit, it's not that people are saying we want to park illegally, no one is saying that. Most people are very happy to pay a parking permit if there was one available."