Working group hoping for action to tackle parking problems in Borders

Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar in Selkirk High Street.
Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar in Selkirk High Street.

Motorists parking illegally in Borders towns could face a crackdown if plans for a second council-funded police team to work alongside the one launched last year are approved this Thursday, February 28.

Scottish Borders Council’s administration is proposing that another community action team of seven officers be recruited to join the existing team in operation since last April.

The new team would cost £265,000 a year on top of the £282,000 bill the council is already footing for the current one.

Among the issues it would tackle would be parking problems in Borders high streets, but councillors are warning that it is still too early to say how much of an impact that would have, even if council-employed parking attendants were thrown into the mix too.

That note of caution is being sounded despite figures released earlier this month revealing that the present team of one sergeant and six constables handed out 172 parking tickets and carried out 21 static road checks during the third quarter of its first year in operation, from October to December.

That followed 241 parking tickets being issued and 20 static road checks conducted from July to September, carrying on from 219 parking tickets and 40 static checks during the preceding three months.

The council’s parking issues working group has published a review of problems in the region including recommendations for enforcement, signage and double-yellow lines.

It has spent over a year carrying out surveys, researching the availability of parking and investigating the cost of enforcement measures.

The report highlights some of the problems that motorists in the Borders face, saying: “It is clear that parking in the Scottish Borders attracts much comment.

“Human behaviour is such that some people think it acceptable to park just for a minute in an inappropriate place, and once one person does so, others follow suit.

“Off-street car parks are often not used to their full extent if they are not in the immediate vicinity of people’s work or where they wish to shop.

“While non-car use is encouraged, people seem to be reluctant to walk other than for a very short distance from where they park.”

The working group has come up with six recommendations for the council, and, after being postponed for a month, it will be presenting those recommendations to the council’s executive committee on Tuesday, March 12.

Its suggestions are a review of traffic regulation orders so that all Borders towns have the same parking and waiting restrictions, erecting signage at long and short-stay car parks, updating single and double-yellow line markings, launching a media campaign to encourage Borderers to play fair when parking and considering new enforcement measures.

However, those recommendations will come at a cost, with the report estimating that the council would need to find between £326,750 and £904,650 to pay for the measures proposed.

Selkirkshire councillor Gordon Edgar, chairman of the working group, said: “A great deal has been spoken and written about parking in town centres and elsewhere in the Scottish Borders – from the abuse of traffic restrictions, to the demise of the traffic warden service and the seeming lack of monitoring or enforcement.

“Parking in town centres is vital in ensuring people can access the goods and services they need, playing an important part in the Borders economy, and also has a crucial role to play in managing traffic and congestion.

“We have examined the extent of parking restrictions and availability in Border towns, the position on enforcement, including the potential for decriminalised parking enforcement, and options for the future.

“This examination has allowed us to take account of many different views and also provided us with an insight into wider parking behaviours in the Borders.”

The council’s service director for assets and infrastructure, Martin Joyce, is recommending that councillors accept all but one of the working group’s ideas as he believes that enforcement should be addressed by the current community action team, a joint venture by Police Scotland and the council, and any additional future one.

The working group’s report adds: “Enforcement of parking and waiting restrictions is seen as a continuing issue.

“The misconception still remains that it was the council which had employed and then removed the traffic warden service, rather than Police Scotland.

“The council investment in the police community action team may go some way to assisting with enforcement, but as the team has only been in place since April 2018, it is too early to make a judgement on its effectiveness in terms of parking.

“The council employs parking attendants to monitor and enforce its off-street car parks, and they could be further deployed to monitor on-street parking and advise the police of areas of concern.

“Cost will need to be included as a determining factor in any future enforcement regime.

“It is unlikely to be affordable for parking attendants to be permanently based and patrolling each town on a daily basis.”