CIVIL parking enforcement, delayed from last summer, finally hits streets in Chester district on Thursday (January 8).

Chester City Council will take over responsibility for enforcing parking, loading and waiting restrictions from the police using its own civil enforcement officers.

The Town Hall insists the patrols will not be working to targets and will not be paid bonuses for issuing tickets.

Their role will be to help keep the streets clear and improve the flow of traffic.

It is argued “better enforcement of parking regulations and focusing on vehicles wrongly or inconsiderately parked” will keep traffic flowing freely and improve access and response times for emergency vehicles.

Conditions will be improved for buses and cyclists and drivers will be prevented from parking on pavements and obstructing buggies, wheelchair users and pedestrians.

The misuse of disabled parking spaces will be cut, it is suggested, road safety at junctions where parked vehicles block the view of other drivers will be improved, as will safety outside schools and pollution reduced.

“The change in parking enforcement procedures is not a fundraising exercise,” says the council.

“Currently the government keeps the money from parking tickets issued by the police.

“However, under this new scheme, the city council will collect the penalty notice charges and use the money to pay for the costs of enforcement.

“Any money left over will be used to improve transport and parking facilities in the district.”

The decriminalising of parking enforcement, which makes illegal parking a civil rather than criminal matter, will allow the police to concentrate their resources on other areas, it is argued.

Extra patrols were recruited in the autumn but Chester’s parking services manager David Bennett said the council does not wish to get a reputation for overzealous ticketing.

Officials believe the introduction of decriminalised parking enforcement will have a big impact on people who have parked illegally on Chester’s streets for years.

“They will be forced to find new places to park, migrate to off-street car parks or face significant fines,” the city’s executive was told in a report.

The estimated number of parking tickets necessary to cover the costs of implementing the scheme is said to be “significantly over” the 12,000 penalty notices issued each year at present.

But the number of tickets is expected to rise when the 12 strong team of patrols gains responsibility for policing on-street parking in addition to residents’ parking schemes and city council car parks as at present.

There will be two levels of penalty - a lesser offence, for example, overstaying briefly at a parking meter, or a serious offence, such as parking on a double yellow line.

Lesser offences will attract a £50 ticket (reduced to £25 for prompt payment) and serious offences a £70 ticket (£35).

Penalties can be issued for parking alongside dropped kerbs or for parking just 50cm away from the kerb.