Options to address parking woes in South Cambridgeshire to be explored

Parking enforcement has been discussed by South Cambs councillors. Picture: Danny Loo

Parking enforcement has been discussed by South Cambs councillors. Picture: Danny Loo - Credit: Picture: DANNY LOO

Frustration over the lack of parking enforcement in South Cambridgeshire was discussed at a meeting of the full council yesterday, where a motion was passed to explore options to address the issue.

A number of South Cambridgeshire district councillors described a lack of deterrence and complained of “misery” for some residents, especially those close to the boundary with Cambridge city.

The Conservative opposition group, which brought a motion to take action on the issue, said that of the 326 local authority areas in England, the district is one of just 13 that does not have civil parking enforcement.

The current arrangement is for the police to enforce parking restrictions, but some councillors questioned the police’s commitment to the task.

Liberal Democrat councillor Brian Milnes, who represents Sawston, said: “The police have continued to refuse to engage in parking enforcement when it’s their statutory responsibility.”

Conservative councillor Richard Williams – who represents Thriplow and Heathfield, as well as Whittlesford and Newton – brought the motion. He said: “The police do what they can but they have many other calls on their time, and enforcement is necessarily sporadic and that results in relatively little deterrence.”

Councillors heard that one barrier to introducing a civil parking enforcement scheme in the past has been a national requirement for them to be self-funding, which can be more difficult in rural areas.

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Cllr Williams said: “I think the impetus for looking at this now is that the landscape for civil parking enforcement itself is changing in terms of potential new expansion of powers, and the district itself is changing.”

He said relying solely on the police for parking enforcement makes South Cambridgeshire a “significant outlier”.

He said: “Civil parking enforcement, with councils taking responsibility for introducing traffic wardens, is a way to bring extra resources to this issue with dedicated enforcement officers.”

He said civil parking enforcement has been in place in Cambridge since 2004, and the city is expanding.

“The differential enforcement that that gives rise to is a particular problem for the areas in our district that are immediately adjacent to the city,” he said, adding the current model is not sustainable.

He said he recognised the council has looked at the issue “from time to time” but said “no detailed feasibility study” has been undertaken since 2006. He said now is a good time to carry out further detailed work to assess the financial viability of implementing a civil parking enforcement scheme.

The motion called for councillors to recognise “that illegal parking is a serious problem for many communities in our district”.

The motion originally read: “The council commits to tackling this problem and will explore the options available to us.”

But a Liberal Democrat amendment, accepted by the Conservatives, changed it to read that the council commits “to continuing to explore the options”.

The motion was passed with all but one councillor in favour. The councillor for Bassingbourn and Litlington, Nigel Cathcart, abstained.

Cllr Cathcart said the issue has been “discussed several times” and warned “this is not just an enforcement issue, it’s a design issue. It’s different in every village. We need to be careful.”

He said some estates in the area were “designed in the eras when no one had a car, and now you can actually find houses where there are eight cars in a single household”.

He said with civil enforcement parking “you do often get tensions between households, and you get tensions between parking enforcement officers and residents.

“So I think there’s a deeper problem than enforcement, and I think we came to that conclusion 20 years ago. There’s no harm in actually looking at it again, but I feel we need to tread fairly carefully, and look at all the issues, look at the whole thing in the round, because otherwise we will actually just create a rod for our own backs.”

Government guidance on civil parking enforcement was updated in June in parking enforcement should be self-financing as soon as practicable, but if it isn’t the local authority needs to be certain that they can afford to pay for it from within existing funding.