Probe into parking problem under wraps

Market Square, Duns
Market Square, Duns

The working group of officers and councillors charged to find a solution to parking chaos in towns across the region over the past two years has concluded its investigations.

But the findings of the group – set up last summer to consider the pros and cons of Scottish Borders Council running its own decriminalised parking enforcement (DPE) regime – are being kept under wraps.

And, according to Councillor Gordon Edgar, executive member for roads, these recommendations will now be subject of “further high level discussions” before a report goes to the full council.

It is over two years since the traffic warden service was withdrawn in the region by Police Scotland and Councillor Edgar admitted: “Following the withdrawal of the wardens, the decision on how to move forward with traffic management in our towns is one of the most significant this council has had to face.”

He revealed that since completing its investigations, the working group’s recommendations had been discussed by SBC’s corporate management team, led by chief executive Tracey Logan.

“Officers were asked to undertake further work before reporting back to the working group. This happened on March 8 when there was a full and frank discussion of the options open to the council.

“Following that meeting, further high level discussions are to take place prior to a report coming before council.”

Councillors appear split on the subject. Some believe a council-run DPE scheme would be too expensive to implement at a time when public finances are under increasing pressure. Others feel the status quo, with the resulting parking free-for-all due to lack of enforcement, is not an option.

After the working group was set up last year, Mr Edgar admitted the costs of the council introducing a DPE scheme “could be prohibitive”.

After their exchange at last week’s meeting of Scottish Borders Council, Councillor Logan said Borderers were “losing patience” with the lack of parking enforcement, despite the best efforts of an “over-stretched” police force.

“Things have got much worse over these two years with Galashiels a glaring example of the free-for-all which is crippling the town centre,” said Councillor Logan.

“If the working group recommendations have been changed or, indeed, ditched because they are unviable, I would hope that other alternatives, such as granting enforcement powers to the private sector, are fully considered.

“In my view and in the view I’m sure of many Borderers, the status quo is surely not an option.”