PARENTS who park dangerously outside Blackburn and Darwen schools are set to be caught by a ‘spy car’ after the council sought greater powers to fine motorists.
Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council has voted to apply to the Department for Transport for extra enforcement powers to punish drivers for inconsiderate parking.
The authority said it was taking action after receiving complaints from schools and residents about dangerous and bad parking across the borough.
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The new measures, set to be rubbber stamped by central government, would focus particularly on areas around schools and public transport priority areas, for example, the interchange outside Blackburn train station.
They will include the introduction of a controversial £50,000 plus ‘spy car’, which will target parents stopping on double yellow lines outside schools and motorists clogging up new bus lanes being created for the Pennine Reach scheme to speed journeys between Blackburn and Accrington.
Parking enforcement officers could also be drafted in to problem areas and would be able to to send penalty charge notices directly to vehicle owners by post as well as hand out parking tickets.
At the moment only the police can use automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) technology to identify the owner of vehicles breaking traffic laws and then issue fines to the owner’s home.
Headteachers have welcomed the ‘excellent move', with many saying they had already approached the council to ask for help to deal with the issue.
Councillors also hope it will help ease pressure on police, who may not have the time to deal with parking issues.
Stuart Plowes, headteacher at Avondale Primary School in Darwen, said: “We have had issues with inconsiderate parking outside the school and if this means there are more people available to do the enforcement then that is great.
“Hopefully, they will be able to look at people causing a danger to children and problems in general.
“And if they can promote considerate parking in general then this is an excellent move for us.”
Fiona Cook, assistant head at St James' Lower Darwen CE Primary said: “We would definitely support tougher parking regulations.
“We have major problems with parking. We’ve talked to the council and Capita and had the police involved to try to get it a bit safer.
“Anything the council could do would be great.”
If the powers are approved, the council would seek to improve road safety by enforcing ‘keep clear’ markings near schools, zig-zag markings on pedestrian crossings, kerb blips for loading bans, dropped crossings, and bus stops.
It would also enforce designated public transport priority areas, such as areas reserved for buses.
Bastwell councillor, and chairman of governors at Brookhouse Primary, Shaukhat Hussain, said cutbacks meant it was difficult sometimes for the police to deal with the issue.
He said: “It’s been a problem in streets around my ward, and I am concerned.
“They’ve had about three or four accidents at Cedars Primary School within a period of four months.
“Luckily, they haven’t been serious, but it’s only a matter of time.
“They may not all be down to inconsiderate parking, but it is a big problem.
“Because of the cutbacks the police face at the minute, they have other priorities, and they may not consider parking to be a high priority.
“They try their best but it’s stretching their resources, and if the council has these powers I think it will help.”
A spokesperson for Lancashire police said: “Any powers which can help alleviate traffic problems are welcomed.”
Motoring groups also welcomed the decision, praising the council for choosing to prioritise enforcement.
Professor Stephen Glaister, director of the RAC Foundation, said: “Most drivers don’t have a problem with reasonable restrictions. It’s where enforcement and punishment seems out of all proportion to the ‘crime’ that things jar.
“There probably won’t be many people objecting to powers aimed at keeping people safe and keeping traffic moving.”
A council spokesman said that if the government agreed to grant the extra powers, a public consultation and information campaign would take place before any action was taken.
Similar regulations have already been adopted elsewhere in the country, including in London boroughs.
Councillor Maureen Bateson, the council's executive member for regeneration, said: “People have approached me and other councillors time and time again to say one of their biggest concerns is bad and inconsiderate parking, especially near schools.
“We are keen to explore different ways of solving these problems so we are applying to the Department for Transport for some new and additional powers.
“It also brings us in line with other councils. It’s the start of the process and we are keen to get residents involved in these discussions.
“Clearly, though, the issue of bad parking can’t be solved by the council and enforcement measures alone but we all can play a part in tackling it.”
Lancashire county council already has no plans to seek the ANPR authorisation, but wardens are able to ticket illegal parkers.