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Wisbech, March, Whittlesey and Chatteris face parking nightmare as council pauses civil parking enforcement

Fenland Council is offering one crumb of comfort

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Illegal on street parking across the four Fenland towns could remain a nightmare for years to come after Fenland Council announced a £500,000 funding gap has forced it to ‘pause’ the introduction of civil parking enforcement (CPE). And the council is also reporting that the owners of one of its car parks in March that it leases – Darthill Road – want it back within the year. More than 73 cars will have to find somewhere else to park.

As previously reported by CambNews, Fenland District Council estimates the set-up costs of CPE to be £900,000, although Labour Mayor Dr Johnson has pledged £400,000 from the Cambridgeshire and Peterborough Combined Authority.

But that still leaves the district council needing to find £500,000 – which at the moment they say is impossible.

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A report to the council on May 20, says: “Currently progress on the CPE project has been paused until such time as additional funding is found or committed.”

Last November portfolio holder and deputy council leader Jan French reported the updated corrective sign and line costs from Cambridgeshire County Council for all four tranches (one for each of the market towns and surrounding areas) where traffic regulation orders are in place.

Collectively, 294 signing defects were found to exist along with 743 lining defects.

“The target cost (estimated cost which could go up or down) for the signing and lining works amounted to £592,393.33 which also included a 10% contingency allowance,” says the report to councillors.

“Based on minimal civil enforcement officer deployment, the annual revenue deficit to FDC for the administration and operational running of CPE was estimated at £45,469.20 per year.

“This excludes any costs associated with administering waiver, dispensations, suspensions and permits which would be conditional of the county council agency agreement.

“Whilst the CPCA funding deadline was revised to December 2025, the CPE project cannot be delivered unless the estimated funding shortfall in the region of £500,000 is found from the FDC purse.”

Officers are, however, offering one crumb of comfort.

In a section of the paper entitled “On and Off-Street Parking Enforcement Update”, the council says officers are looking at the estimated cost of introducing a district wide parking places order across all FDC owned car parks.

“Whilst this would not offer enforcement of on-street parking areas, this would enable off-street parking areas owned by FDC to be regulated and enforced,” says the report.

“Which would in turn free up parking spaces to reduce on-street parking contraventions.”

On Fenland Council owned car park maintenance, Cllr French will report that inspections of car parks began last month “where the various defects shall be quantified and actioned.

“The engineering team have seen construction costs for repair works increase considerably over the last 12 months and a noticeable reduction in contractor interest to undertake repair works for FDC”.

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Cllr French will also report that liaison with the National Trust continues following the expiry of the long term 60-year lease agreement of Chapel Road Car Park, Wisbech, on March 25. It has 202 parking spaces and seven disabled bays.

“FDC’s former lease will hold over on a protected lease arrangement until a way forward is determined and agreed,” she will tell councillors.

Cars that caught the attention of police in Wisbech, Whittlesey and Chatteris. But police can only devote a limited amount of time to the issues. CPE will hand responsibility for parking to Fenland Council.

Cars that caught the attention of police in Wisbech, Whittlesey and Chatteris. But police can only devote a limited amount of time to the issues. CPE will hand responsibility for parking to Fenland Council. But that plan has been paused because of the cost

But that is grim news in March, where Fenland Council has received a notice to vacate the Darthill Road Car Park from solicitors acting on behalf of the landowners. Darthill Road has space for 73 cars.

“Currently FDC have until 8th April 2025 to vacate the site,” says Cllr French.

“However, FDC officers are seeking legal advice in relation to this matter following which a detailed strategy for the site will be circulated to Cabinet for consideration.”

FOOTNOTE

Delays to CPE– first agreed in principle in 2019 – have previously been described by Cllr French as “very frustrating”.

CPE would mean an end to reliance on police for parking enforcement across all 4 Fenland towns and hand it over to Fenland Council and the introduction of enforcement officers.

Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) transfers the powers and responsibilities for on-street enforcement from the police to the highway authority. WISBECH

But to do that means agreement with Cambridgeshire County Council and the costs involved that include correcting defects found in 294 road traffic signs and 743 lining defects.

In Wisbech alone the costs are put at £260,000.

In Huntingdonshire, the district council executive councillor for Leisure, Waste and Street Scene, Cllr Simone Taylor, says that as part of the application to the Department for Transport, “Cambridgeshire County Council has been advised that we will likely receive approval to commence civil parking enforcement in January 2025 due to anticipated Parliamentary delays.

“This project is something that we are actively pursuing, and our officers will continue to work closely with county colleagues to ensure delivery of the project.

“We recognise the benefits, as do our colleagues within the other local authority areas, and it will be a great achievement for Cambridgeshire, once delivered.”

The introduction of Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) transfers the powers and responsibilities for on-street parking enforcement from the Police to the local highway authority. The majority of on-street offences are then treated as civil matters which is enforced by Civil Enforcement Officers (CEO).

Cambridgeshire County Council’s application for CPE in South Cambridgeshire was approved by the Secretary of State via the Department for Transport (DfT) on 19th December 2023.

Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) transfers the powers and responsibilities for on-street enforcement from the police to the highway authority. FENLAND

Civil Parking Enforcement (CPE) transfers the powers and responsibilities for on-street enforcement from the police to the highway authority. FENLAND

‘Warning notices’ with a zero charge have been issued across South Cambridgeshire during January 2024 to vehicles parked in contravention, such as double yellow lines. Live Penalty Charge Notices have been issued since 1st February 2024.

The council says enforcement activity is being “governed by resources and tailored accordingly”.

 

 

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