THE introduction of decriminalised parking in Chester has been hit by another delay, including civil servants’ August holidays.
The long awaited move will see city council patrols having responsibility for enforcing both on street parking - at present carried out by police community support officers, formerly traffic wardens - and parking in the council's own car parks and designated residents parking schemes.
Originally due to have been introduced after several years planning on July 13, the date was changed to October 15 when the Department for Transport said it could not consider the earlier date.
This coincided with another council implementing decriminalised parking enforcement on the same day.
Cheshire County Council, which submitted the application for both Chester City and Ellesmere Port and Neston Borough councils, then suggested the October date but the ministry said it was experiencing problems and was unable to complete the necessary procedures in time.
A new date of November 12 was offered and confirmed and Whitehall civil servants are said to have “expressed their gratitude” for the county council's co-operation.
In the meantime, the city council recruited additional civil enforcement officers, as they will be known, with the intention they would be patrolling the streets in advance of the November date issuing advisory notices.
It has now been revealed that earlier this month the ministry again contacted the county council to say the November date would not be achieved due to what were described as “unforeseen circumstances”.
Further alternative dates of November 26 and December 3 were put forward by Whitehall.
The Cheshire authorities plumped for November 26 but government officials then declined to confirm the date and have now said that they are not prepared to provide an alternative until they have completed all the necessary legal processes.
A Whitehall civil servant in the ministry's traffic management division contacted principal traffic engineer Graham Lowe in the county council’s engineering by e mail in connection with the delay.
She suggested that councillors should be told the ministry could no longer guarantee to have the necessary documentation agreed and signed by the minister in time for civil parking enforcement to come into force in both towns on November 12.
This was due to “staff absences on annual leave during August” and following that the need for the ministry and the county council to agree the definition of main roads in the district which will be excluded.
A change of minister has also affected the speed at which the documents can be processed and laid before parliament, it is said.
A revised date is being negotiated according to the ministry but it is believed this will not be before mid December.
Ahead of the implementation of the scheme, a leaflet has been drawn up by the city council which is to be distributed to all residents.
The information will also be available on the internet and advertisements are to be placed in local newspapers to inform occupiers of the changes.
These include proposals for fixed penalty charges of £70 and £50 depending on the severity of the contravention with discounted rates of £35 and £25 if paid within 14 days.
It is suggested a £70 ticket could apply for parking on double yellow lines with £50 for overstaying in a car park.
Late payers could find themselves hit by bills for £105 or £75 or more if the council has to pursue the debt through the use of bailiffs.
The enforcement officers will not be allowed to accept payment and will be under strict instructions that once a ticket has been issued, it cannot be withdrawn.
It is argued that better enforcement of parking regulations and targeting wrongly and inconsiderately parked vehicles will benefit residents and visitors.
The scheme will improve road safety at junctions where parked vehicles block the view of other drivers and improve safety outside schools, it is claimed.
It will help traffic to flow freely and provide improved access and response times for emergency vehicles.
Civil parking enforcement will also cut the abuse of disabled parking spaces and free up the bays for genuine disabled car users, it is suggested.
Residents will be assured that enforcement officers will not have targets or be paid bonuses for the number of tickets they issue.
“Their aim will simply be to help keep the streets clearer to help the flow of traffic,” says a report.