New changes to parking enforcement across Staffordshire have been blamed for causing an increase in traffic chaos and threatening the regeneration of Newcastle town centre.
The claim was made by Newcastle’s Labour MP Paul Farrelly following complaints by shops and businesses angered by changes in parking enforcement that were introduced earlier this year.
From 1st April, Conservative-run Staffordshire County Council took back powers over on-street parking from Newcastle Borough Council and then awarded a five-year contract to Stoke-on-Trent City Council to carry out enforcement.
But traders say the new arrangements are a shambles with cars and lorries clogging up the town’s pedestrianised streets by leaving their vehicles parked for lengthy periods.
Businesses also claim that with only limited knowledge of the town, the City’s parking wardens have handed out tickets in an insensitive way, failing to use their discretion and upsetting traders and shoppers alike.
Now Mr Farrelly has written to Newcastle Council’s Leader, Elizabeth Shenton, to look into the concerns about the new scheme, warning that the economic regeneration of the town centre was being put at risk.
In his letter, Mr Farrelly said: “Parking enforcement is vitally important to the regeneration of the town centre and I know from conversations with town centre traders that, under the new arrangements, the City’s enforcement wardens have on occasions adopted a heavy-handed approach, with little or no discretion or knowledge of local circumstances.
“My concern is that the poor quality of enforcement is hindering Newcastle’s economic vibrancy. Excess parking and through traffic is creating a much more congested town centre and the effect is frustrating, not only for shoppers but also for traders,” he warned.
“I would be grateful for any suggestions about how the damaging impact of the new on-street enforcement regime can be changed, with a view to ensuring that parking powers are returned to Newcastle under the auspices of the Borough Council. “
Since 2007, the management and control of parking has been overseen by a committee run jointly by the County and Borough Councils.
With the transfer of enforcement powers, however, the committee has now been disbanded, leaving locally-elected Borough councillors without a direct say on parking, including provision of residents’ only parking zones.
“Residents are often plagued by parking problems and I know many wish to see more on-street parking zones created. I am aware that at least two new zones – at Dunkirk and West Brampton – were approved by the committee before its demise and I’d be very interested to know whether they will now go ahead as planned,” he said.
*The new enforcement system affects only on-street parking and excludes regulation of town centre car parks, which remain under the direct control of the Borough Council.