Friday, 24 May 2019

Police officers ‘too busy’ to enforce parking rules

POLICE are too busy to crackdown on nuisance parking in Sonning Common, according to parish councillors.

Vehicles routinely park on yellow lines outside the Co-op on Wood Lane, causing blockages, and slowing traffic flow.

Five years ago the council painted yellow lines in front of the supermarket to try to solve the problem but drivers ignore them.

Councillor Leigh Rawlins said: “The council had yellow lines installed but unfortunately they have not had quite the impact that was hoped for because they have not really been enforced.

“It is a reality that the police have limited resources and they are less than they were. Police community support officers are not always in Sonning Common. They are actually across various parishes in the Henley area.”

Councillor Carole Lewis, who chairs the council, said: “The parking outside the Co-op is causing traffic chaos. It has made it difficult for buses and other larger vehicles to get through our little village centre.

“But people know that there’s nobody to police this. I would like to see some localised enforcement powers. I think the police are totally stretched and to be honest, if they could do more they would. I really believe they are being stretched in so many ways.”

Councillor Brian Giles is concerned about the hazards caused by inconsiderate parking.

He said: “We are not going to solve the whole problem overnight. We are trying to educate the public about what parking is permissible — and not in areas where it becomes a traffic hazard. I am concerned about safety and preventing accidents and making traffic move more easily.

“Car parking in rural areas is becoming a headache to all local authorities. It needs careful discussion, agreement and forward planning.”

The parish council is now considering ways it can tackle the problem.

Cllr Rawlins, who chairs the council’s planning committee, said the authority could undertake its own parking enforcement.

He said: “We will need to find a way where we can go out and make the appropriate checks. We would not need to do it every day of every week. If we did it from time to time the message gets round and people know there is a real risk of getting ticketed.”

Cllr Rawlins also warned that new housing developments in Sonning Common will bring more people and cars, which could only result in busier roads.

The current Neighbourhood Plan allocates five sites for the construction of 195 homes. One development of 65 homes at Lea Meadow, off Peppard Road, has been completed and another is underway at Sonning Grove, off Reades Lane.

Parish councillor John Stoves said he would support the idea of localised parking enforcement powers. He said: “People just come in for five minutes and think ‘I will take my chance’. I think we need specific wardens. That applies to a lot of other places as well.

“I refuse to knock the police on an ad-hoc basis. I do think it’s the government’s fault. For a country that has the wealth that this country has to claim we needed austerity was just not on.

“To me it’s not acceptable. I would love to see us have our police office in the village again. If people thought there were police round the corner, they would be more cautious.”

Cllr Lewis said she would be putting the issue on the council agenda for discussion She added: “Something I would like to put on the parish council agenda is the appointment of wardens — someone with localised powers that can act on behalf of the parish council.

“We can’t expect the police to do everything for us. They have a job to do and they have to prioritise their jobs, which we understand fully.”

Last July, residents in Ashford Avenue had complained about drivers parking across their drives.

Councillor David Bartholomew, who represents the village on Oxfordshire County Council, said they could pay for “access protection markings” but residents would need to contribute £120 towards it.

But the marking, which is a single white line, is only a deterrent because it is not enforceable by the highways authority.

Inspector Emma Tompkins, the neighbourhood policing inspector for South Oxfordshire and Vale, said: “Managing any illegally or irresponsibly parked cars has to be considered alongside our other local area priorities.

However, our community should be aware that parking vehicles in a location that is unsafe or causing a significant obstruction to the highway will be dealt with robustly by our local officers when seen.” 

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