Parking spaces reserved for residents in Preston city centre should be better policed to prevent the visitor permit system operating in the area from being abused.
The advice follows reports of disgruntled householders in a ‘face-off’ with city centre workers using residential streets to park up all day – with the fall-out resulting in vandalised parking signs and slashed tyres.
Increasing the number of patrols is one of a series of recommendations from a Preston City Council task group set up to improve the parking situation on the city’s streets.
Responsibility for permits transferred to Lancashire County Council last year. But a city council officer said that the call for more effective enforcement did not necessarily mean that County Hall would have to deploy extra physical patrols.
“From our own experience, we know that the easiest way to police this is via the residents themselves,” said Russell Rees, Preston City Council’s head of engineering.
“If they see somebody who’s arriving at 9am and leaving at 5.30pm every day, they know that it’s likely to be somebody using a visitor permit to go to work.
“If we were then informed of that, we would write to the [primary] permit-holder reminding them of how they should be using their visitor permits.”
Households in Preston are allowed to buy two visitor permits each.
Task group member Coun Lynne Brooks said that the county council should introduce a “three strikes and you’re out” rule for anybody found to be flouting the permit system.
Among the other recommendations was a call for better upkeep of signage and road markings used to delineate parking permit zones, after the meeting heard that they were being “deliberately defaced” in some parts of Preston in an attempt to prevent enforcement by patrols.
The task group also made a plea for the county council to carry out more evening patrols of permit areas and taxi ranks to prevent them from being abused outside of office hours.
The Post understands that Lancashire County Council is planning after-dark enforcement on several occasions this month.
Keith Iddon, the authority’s cabinet member for highways, said: “We already carry out targeted evening enforcement based on intelligence received from the public, councillors, and businesses about problem parking.
“We would encourage people to let us know about specific issues so that we can target our limited resources as effectively and efficiently as possible by emailing email@example.com.”
Multi-storey could open overnight
The task group suggested that Preston City Council considers opening its own multi-storey car park in Avenham to provide “some night-time provision”.
The Syke Street facility currently closes at 8pm.
Task group chair Coun Salim Desai said that opening the car park up at night may “provide an additional revenue stream” for the authority.
Task group members called for Lancashire County Council to consider any requests from residents to extend parking permit zones in the areas where they live.
Frenchwood Street in the city centre was highlighted as one neighbourhood where locals should be consulted over whether they would like to be included in an existing zone.
“We’ve formed a neighbourhood watch group in the area and every other day [there’s an issue] to do with parking,” city centre ward councillor Salim Desai said.
“It can be anything from city workers parking where they shouldn’t to people having their tyres let down.”
Back in August, some vehicles were forcibly removed from the area – and several residents later found that their own tyres had been slashed.
That incident has so far proved to be a one-off - but a much more common occurrence are the skirmishes over scare spaces in streets where there are no parking restrictions.
Speaking after the meeting, Coun Desai described a daily “face-off” between residents and city centre workers.
“Some of the locals have taken to putting bins and cones outside their houses to stop people parking there. Then they get abuse from drivers who want to pull up.
“I know people shouldn’t be doing things like that, but they are so frustrated. They can’t even go out for 10 minutes to take a relative to a medical appointment without losing their space - and then have to park some distance away from their homes. Then there are people who go on holiday by train and leave their cars parked for weeks,” Coun Desai added.
He said that residents would now be open to the introduction of permits in city centre streets where they do not currently operate - in spite of the fact that some areas voted for their removal more than a decade ago.
“The price is much more reasonable now and the problem is so much worse,” Coun Desai said.
“So many houses have also now been converted into flats - and even though they are advertised as ‘no car needed’, because it’s a city centre location, most people who move in still have cars.”
Lancashire County Council recently standardised the price of residents and business parking permits at £25 per year.
Last month, County Hall’s cabinet member for highways, Keith Iddon, said that he was open to considering requests for new permit zones - provided councillors assisted by carrying out informal consultations.
That was to avoid the county council going to the expense of launching the required formal process, only to discover that there was insufficient local support for the new restrictions.
In a statement in response to the task group recommendations, County Coun Iddon said: “We have recently been focused on ensuring residents’ parking schemes operate fairly and consistently across the county and are not currently considering new schemes or amendments to any existing schemes.
“Preparing proposals and consulting on new schemes is costly and does not always lead to them being introduced, particularly if not all residents are in agreement. However, if councillors are prepared to work with residents on a proposal and demonstrate a strong consensus, we will look at it.”