Parking disc scheme trial is abandoned

Councillor Gordon Edgar in Selkirk.

Councillor Gordon Edgar in Selkirk.

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A bid to try out a disc-based parking system in the Borders has been abandoned after it failed to win support from the police, it has emerged.

Scottish Borders Council agreed in November to introduce the system for a three-month trial period from next month until May in Hawick and Selkirk.

The proposed pilot project was agreed in a bid to stop irresponsible motorists driving trade away from the High Street by taking up parking spaces for hours – or even days – on end.

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

However, plans to address the problem with a disc-based system now lie in tatters.

A Scottish Borders Council spokesperson said: “Following further discussions with Police Scotland, it has been decided not to go ahead with the disc parking pilot scheme in Hawick and Selkirk, as the discs will not provide sufficient evidential value in terms of a prosecution within a criminalised parking regime.

“Scottish Borders Council’s chief executive and leader have met with Chief Superintendent Ivor Marshall and have agreed a number of actions which will be carried out in the coming months to tackle parking enforcement problems that exist in particular areas of the Borders.”

As an alternative, the police have agreed to support a campaign of increased activity on parking enforcement between March and May to enforce parking regulations and target particular hotspots in both towns.

The apparent U-turn has come as little surprise to some of the councillors who objected to the plans in November.

Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer, a former police chief, said he had advised the council’s leadership that the disc pilot scheme had “absolutely no chance of being introduced”.

He said: “Parking discs are traditionally introduced as part of a decriminalised parking scheme and have little, if any, evidential value within the current criminal justice-regulated procedures.

“Even if introduced, it could only have been done in a voluntary way so drivers would have had a choice, again leading to inconsistent and potentially a very divisive way of enforcing the law. You voluntarily buy and then display your disc.”

The council’s executive member for roads and infrastructure, Gordon Edgar, has long insisted that a council-run decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) scheme is the way forward.

The Selkirkshire councillor broke ranks from the administration and urged the council to immediately embark on the legally-required public consultation on the introduction of DPE. However, he was outvoted 19-11 as councillors opted instead for Police Scotland to enforce parking regulations in the region.

He said: “I was disappointed that they didn’t bring in decriminalised parking because the scheme we have at the moment was that the police would look after the parking within the towns.

“The police can’t do that because there is not a bylaw that makes it an offence to park without a disc. It’s a civil offence rather than a criminal offence.

“I knew that the police would not be able to do it. They also just do not have the time to stand and wait to time vehicles.

“And that is not controlling parking. We want a system that controls it, whereas the police can only do it when they have a spare moment, and that won’t work.

“All the towns have a parking problem and the council is losing money because of this. They have pay parking in some car parks but if someone can park in the street for free all day, then they will do that.”

He added: “There has to be a management scheme brought in and it will pay for itself. But unfortunately I couldn’t convince the authority to bring it in.

“I am still hoping that is something that can be taken forward with the new council administration.

“The problem is not going to go away and the solution that was agreed is not a solution as far as I am concerned. It is hopeless.”

Selkirkshire councillor Michelle Ballantyne, who also previously pledged support for a DPE scheme, added: “It was never going to work, the claim was that we didn’t have issues and the police could deal with it. But If we didn’t have issues, we wouldn’t be discussing it.

“While the police are doing their best, they do need support.

“We can’t ignore the problem. It’s going to come down to where people want the money to be spent if we can’t get people to behave reasonably and park sensibly.”

Along with Galashiels and Kelso, Hawick and Selkirk were highlighted as hotspots for illegal parking in a survey commissioned by the council for £35,000.

In a letter to councillors, Tracey Logan, chief executive of the council, says: “Despite initial positive feedback from the police about a disc-based parking system, it has now been clarified at national level that Police Scotland will not enforce a disc-based parking system and therefore implementing such a system is not necessary.

“I now intend to ask officers to work with the police on the targeted campaign for Hawick and Selkirk and would suggest that no further action is taken on the implementation of a disc-based parking system.”

One of the recommendations also agreed by the council was that its roads department establish a rolling programme of inspections to ensure that all signage and restricted markings in areas are clear, visible and enforceable.

Ms Logan added: “This work will commence in the weeks ahead and will roll out across the Borders.”