Warning: traffic warden-free zone ahead

It is every driver's dream to be able to park in a world free of the dreaded traffic warden.But others fear streets will become clogged as drivers take advantage of the missing meter maid.

It is every driver's dream to be able to park in a world free of the dreaded traffic warden.

But others fear streets will become clogged as drivers take advantage of the missing meter maid.

Traders and residents were shocked and appalled as the news was broken that there will be no traffic wardens working in north Norfolk for the next month.

Sheringham mayor and bookshop owner Peter Cox said: "What's the point of having parking restrictions if there's no-one to enforce them? It's obvious as soon as people hear there is no traffic warden they will park anywhere they want to regardless of safety. This could easily result in chaos."

Previously there had been as many as four traffic wardens stationed in north Norfolk to help combat the problems caused by a high influx of tourists and lack of adequate parking.

In more recent years there were supposed to be two on patrol in the area, but one took early retirement in 2006, which left only one - who is dubbed Limpy John by the locals. He retired on Thursday.

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The police, who manage traffic wardens, had hoped to find two replacement traffic wardens before he left. But it will be another month before the new recruits hit the streets.

David Law, traffic manager, said: "We have now decided to hire three traffic wardens. They have been offered the posts and we are not sure of confirmed start dates but it should be within the next four weeks.

"Obviously they will need to be trained and shown the ropes.

"There will be an increase of police community support officers in the area and while they cannot issue fines, they can deal with congestion.

"Their presence should deter people. And there are also police officers who can deal with matters."

However, neither the police or district council were available for comment on how they plan to combat the absence of traffic wardens in the interim period.

Cromer mayor Tony Nash said: "In the past traffic wardens have always done a really good and fair job. There's a necessity about them that keeps people on their toes."

North Norfolk has always had parking problems. In summer cars often litter the pavements of the coastal towns.

Residents in North Walsham and Cromer have repeatedly campaigned for more car parks.

In 2006 the district council proposed to build 56 spaces on the Kiddies Corner at North Lodge Park in Cromer, but more than 3,000 people signed a petition opposing the scheme.

One North Walsham shopowner who did not wish to be named said: "Traffic wardens only solve part of the problem. This town really needs car parks where people can stay and wander around for the whole day.

"Or what a lot of us want is to allow cars to park in the town centre and reduce the speed limit. It would make the area more sociable and reduce the dire need for traffic wardens."