Disc scheme to be tried out in Hawick and Selkirk in bid to tackle parking problems

Finding a parking space is difficult along Hawick High Street.
Finding a parking space is difficult along Hawick High Street.
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A disc-display parking system is to be piloted in Hawick next spring in a bid to stop irresponsible motorists driving trade away from the town centre by taking up spaces in High Street for hours – or even days – on end.

The decision to run the trial in the town – along with a similar exercise in Selkirk – was taken at yesterday’s full meeting of Scottish Borders Council.

Members voted 19-11 to abort plans for the council to run a region-wide decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) scheme across the Borders.

Instead, the council agreed to make “stronger representations” to Police Scotland to enforce existing parking regulations, particularly in urban hot spots.

To assist the police in that task, David Girdler, the council’s recently appointed chief officer for roads, will investigate the financial viability of the council introducing a disc-based parking system for use in restricted areas.

It was while speaking in support of those measures that council leader David Parker successfully moved that the disc-based scheme should be piloted in Hawick and Selkirk between March 1 and May 31 next year.

Discs will be available in shops in the two towns, and they will be required to be set by motorists when they park up.

The police will then be able to assess if time-limits decreed by traffic regulation orders have been breached.

A decision on whether or not to charge for the discs will be made in January.

However, the move to abandon a DPE scheme was opposed by Hawick and Hermitage councillor David Paterson.

He cited a recent council-commissioned survey showing that parking regulations were being regularly flouted in the town two and a half years after Police Scotland withdrew its traffic warden service.

The study showed that in High Street alone, double-yellow lines were misused on no fewer than 140 occasions over the three days of the study in August.

“I think it is unrealistic to ask the police, who are under serious pressure and financial constraints, to enforce local parking regulations,” said Mr Paterson.

“I am sure they have better things to do.”

Since Borders traffic wardens were removed in February 2014, there has been a marked increase in the abuse of traffic regulations.

On-street parking breaches, such as parking on double-yellow lines, remain a criminal offence, but Police Scotland no longer has a dedicated traffic warden service to tackle them.

Town traders in Hawick claim irresponsible parking is having a detrimental impact on businesses.

And at yesterday’s meeting, Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer put forward a counter-motion calling for a deregulated parking scheme to be introduced.

This would give the local authority the ability to administer its own parking penalties, but, due in part to the costs of such a scheme to the cash-strapped council, the move was rejected.

Speaking afterwards, Mr McAteer described that decision as a “lost opportunity” and “effectively retention of the status quo with some minor changes”.

He added: “I believe the Borders has lost an opportunity to properly address the parking problems that are impacting on business in almost every one of our towns.

“Deregulated parking would have placed control in the hands of the council, which would have been able to designate key areas and ensure that parking is more effectively controlled.

“Leaving this in the hands of an overly stretched Police Scotland will, in my view, do little to address the current problems.

“I am also concerned that the introduction of a voluntary parking-disc system will not, as reported, provide the police with evidence that would support effective prosecution.

“I wouldn’t exactly say that we are in limbo, but it’s not far from that.”