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Motorists warned to expect tougher approach to inconsiderate parking as powers transfer to councils

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Powers to enforce car parking rules across Suffolk have officially transferred from police to councils – with inconsiderate motorists warned to expect a tougher approach.

From Monday, all district and borough councils began carrying out parking enforcement, meaning that motorists parking antisocially could be fined by council officers.

Those powers had previously belonged to police but limited resources meant serious crimes had to be prioritised, leaving parking enforcement by the wayside.

Double yellow lines. Picture: Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay (33062720)
Double yellow lines. Picture: Image by Andrew Martin from Pixabay (33062720)

The coronavirus pandemic means that authorities will be focusing on dangerous and obstructive parking – particularly on key routes and roads regularly used by emergency services.

But motorists who flout the rules have been warned that with councils employing dedicated officers for parking enforcement, more resources will enable them to clampdown on problem parking much more stringently than police have been.

It will also help free up those police resources which were carrying out parking enforcement duties.

Police and crime commissioner Tim Passmore said: “I am absolutely delighted to see civil parking enforcement launched across the whole county. It’s taken a while to get here so it’s great to see parking enforcement handed over to local councils at last.

“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 £190,000 from Suffolk Constabulary’s reserves to help establish the scheme.”

The changeover has been in the pipeline for more than two years, but Brexit had frustrated the process because it meant there was no opportunity in the Parliamentary timetable until the tail end of last year.

But while tougher enforcement is expected, motorists are likely to see a gentler approach to begin with as a result of the coronavirus situation.

An East Suffolk Council spokesman said: “The current situation means we have to ensure that our focus is tackling obstructive and dangerous parking issues, so that the emergency services and those carrying out essential travel can do so safely.

“However, we won’t be enforcing limited waiting bays unless they are directly outside key services, such as doctors’ surgeries, supermarkets or chemists.

“Additionally, people with a residents parking permit who cannot park outside their home, are permitted to park for free in nearby off-street car parks, if they display their parking permit.

“These are exceptional times and we have to be sensible whilst ensuring that any enforcement action reflects the current urgent need to protect the emergency services and support key workers.”

Prior to the start of April, Ipswich Borough Council was the only authority in Suffolk to carry out parking enforcement on behalf of police.

A spokeswoman from Babergh and Mid Suffolk said: “At this time with more limited resources, we will be supporting the national response to the pandemic in our districts by prioritising our service to maintain access for our emergency, care, delivery, refuse and highways services.

“Our partners at Ipswich Borough and West Suffolk councils who are carrying out parking enforcement in our districts will be taking a common-sense view and focusing on tackling obstructive and dangerous parking on our roads. We have also relaxed the restrictions in our car parks to help key workers and residents carrying out essential tasks find parking, and will review this as required over coming months.

“We ask that anyone who needs to be out in the districts, whether it may be for essential grocery shopping or supporting the most vulnerable in our communities, to take just a few minutes to make sure they’re parked responsibly and play their part in enabling key vehicles, such as ambulances, waste trucks, and police cars to pass through our roads and save lives.”