Councils to control parking

Councils across the North are making plans to take control of parking enforcement out of the hands of police, as recommended in a report by MPs this week.

Councils across the North are making plans to take control of parking enforcement out of the hands of police, as recommended in a report by MPs this week.

The four other Tyne and Wear authorities are set to join Sunderland in managing their own parking rules.

Transport workers are going through laws and road markings with a fine-tooth comb to make sure they do not make the same mistakes as Sunderland.

The council has admitted failing to correct a string of errors identified before it decriminalised parking in 2003, and has been forced to repay thousands of fines.

A House of Commons committee this week said there should be a uniform system across the country, which would enable each council to hand out and collect fines for parking offences.

Yesterday, Nick Clennett, head of transport and highways at Gateshead Council, which is planning to apply to decriminalise parking before the end of the year, said: "During the last 15 years, we have seen how decriminalised parking enforcement has been implemented around the country and, hopefully, we can now put together a scheme which will avoid most of the problems other councils have encountered."

South Tyneside Council wants to implement its regime early next year. North Tyneside expects to do so in April 2007, with Newcastle following before the end of the year. Durham County Council is considering decriminalising parking in Durham City by the end of next year. Northumberland is also looking into the idea, but has no timescale.

North Tyneside Council said: "We are currently carrying out quality control on 100% of our traffic regulations, checking and double checking to avoid being open to challenge."

A Newcastle Council spokeswoman said: "The biggest task we have to do is an audit of every parking restriction we currently have to ensure the road markings and signage are accurate and make sure they're contained in the legal order."

But campaigner Neil Herron, who exposed the flaws in the Sunderland system, said: "I am 100% confident all of these local authorities will make mistakes, whether on the smallest scale or the grandest.

"Local authorities seeing this as a short-term cash cow may well end up with a financial nightmare."

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