Costly lesson for danger parkers

SPEED CAR CAMERA: Philip Hepburn with new car speed camera.
SPEED CAR CAMERA: Philip Hepburn with new car speed camera.
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A £40,000 SUPER-CAR is the latest weapon unveiled by a local authority to try and reduce the risk of accidents caused by inconsiderate drivers.

Hartlepool Borough Council has taken delivery of a car equipped with the latest Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) technology to tackle illegal parking, and roads around schools will be targeted first as the long-standing problem with congestion around the school gates at peak times shows no signs of easing.

The vehicle, the first of its type to be used by a local authority in the Tees Valley, has a camera fixed to its roof and is equipped with a computer system loaded with details of all parking enforcement areas across the town.

As the car is driven around town, the camera automatically records the registration numbers of cars parked illegally and the information can then be used to issue Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) fines of up to £70 to the guilty drivers.

Illegal parking around schools is currently monitored by on-foot enforcement teams and traffic wardens, but with the number of schools across the town making it difficult police, it is hoped the new system will act as a deterrent.

Despite a number of previous high-profile campaigns, the problem of congestion has not eased over the years and it is hoped this new system will finally achieve results.

Phil Hepburn, Hartlepool Council’s parking services manager, said: “We want to make it clear that we are not prepared to put up with the selfish actions of drivers who put lives at risk by ignoring parking restrictions and parking their vehicles as close to their destinations as possible.

“We have previously used a range of tactics - including education, publicity campaigns and manual enforcement - to try to change drivers’ attitudes but many still choose to flout parking restrictions, putting children and other pedestrians at risk.

“This work will continue, but the camera car enables us to carry out more efficient and effective enforcement of parking restrictions outside of schools, and also means that schools will be visited more frequently than can currently be achieved by Civil Enforcement Officers alone.”

Councillor Pamela Hargreaves, the council’s cabinet member for regeneration and economic development, said: “I have been approached by a number of headteachers concerned about the level of inconsiderate and illegal parking outside schools, despite previous educational and promotional awareness campaigns.

“The problem of dangerous and inconsiderate parking, particularly outside schools, is a matter of serious concern and something that we are determined to tackle.

“We believe the car will help us to improve safety, but it is also important to stress that motorists have nothing to fear if they abide by traffic regulations and park legally.”

The vehicle – viewed as the most efficient and cost-effective method of enforcement currently available - has cost £40,000 with funding coming via the council’s 2010/11 Local Transport Plan (LTP), a pot of capital money provided by the Government to fund transport schemes.

Pupils are due to be given letters for their parents to take home from school this week warning them of the new scheme, though away from school times the car will also be patrolling the streets of Hartlepool to detect illegal parking on other roads around the town.

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