Norfolk drivers flouting parking rules set to be brought to book
Drivers flouting parking rules in Norfolk's market towns could finally be brought to book after a deal was struck for councils to tackle the problem.
Plans to hand control for parking enforcement over from Norfolk Constabulary to the county council have been dogged by delays for more than three years after being caught up in the uncertainty of the proposed shake-up of local government.
Currently only Norwich has a system of council-run parking enforcement in place, with the remainder of the county still covered by police-run traffic wardens.
Yet with the force cutting back its traffic wardens from 35 to eight in the last five years and warning that cuts in government spending means that they are no longer able to maintain that reduced level of coverage, there have been long-standing fears of a parking-free-for-all in many towns.
But new council-run parking teams will be patrolling the rest of Norfolk from October 1 after three district councils agreed to step in and work with County Hall to set up a new system.
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Under the proposals, which are awaiting final approval from the Department for Transport, a new Norfolk Parking Enforcement Partnership will be responsible for handing out parking tickets to drivers across the county, with the exception of Norwich.
That will see 13 full-time equivalent on-street parking enforcement officers, but the numbers will be boosted to around 30 because existing council car park staff will also become part of the team.
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And in summer this will increase to 24 officers in the summer taking the totals available for enforcement to around 50.
Norfolk County Council pays around �250,000 a year to support the remaining traffic wardens, but the new scheme is expected to be financed through any fines raised. However, in the short-term it could be subsidised from surplus funds from Great Yarmouth's council car parks, while any surpluses will be invested in environmental and transport schemes.
Drivers could be find between �50 and �70 depending on the nature of the offence, though this will fall to �25 and �35 if people pay within two weeks, but would rise to between �75 to �105 for those paying late.
Graham Plant, cabinet member for planning and transportation at Norfolk County Council, said the aim was to make streets safer and not create a cash cow.
'At the end of the day if people are going to park illegally and clog up town centres making it dangerous for people to move about, I don't think that's a cash cow, people would expect us to ticket them,' he said. 'It should make the streets a lot clearer.'
Martin Chisholm, business manager for West Norfolk Council, whose staff will patrol up to 80pc of the county, said that since April the authority had already been patrolling council-run car parks in North Norfolk, and had the technology available to offer a fast and efficient service.
The council has bases in Lynn, Hunstanton, Fakenham, Cromer, and North Walsham, but were looking to add two others possibly in Thetford and Dereham.
'For some time it has seemed quite ironic that we have got parking attendants walking between car parks but with no powers to enforce waiting restrictions and yellow lines,' he said. 'We were walking by a problem area, but by combining the roles of on-street and off-street, it enables us to use the existing staff we have got to be more proactive in dealing with those issues.'
Demand for parking enforcement has been led by West Norfolk and Great Yarmouth borough councils, because of the large number of on street parking problems. The two authorities will play a leading role in operating the scheme and be responsible for processing tickets and fines. South Norfolk Council will also use its in-house car park teams to patrol areas in the district, including around Diss Rail station, and at Trowse near County Hall, where problems are particularly acute.
Great Yarmouth will carry out its own enforcement, while Broadland, Breckland, and North Norfolk will rely on teams from West Norfolk to carry out patrols.
As well as issuing tickets staff will also target parking hotspots and pick up other offences, such as car tax evasion and abuse of blue badges.
A joint committee of district, borough, and county councillors The Norfolk Parking Partnership will be overseen by a joint committee where the district, borough and county councils will be represented.
John Fuller, leader of South Norfolk District Council, said: 'We want the lightest possible touch. I don't think there is any question of having parking meters on the street in South Norfolk, but clearly we do have to have a framework, so where there is a problem, we can enforce it.'