Last week at least 25 cars were issued parking tickets for parking on grass verges. The reason so many parked on the verges was because the car park was full due to high number of people attended a funeral of a well-known resident.
As one of the local Cornwall Councillors for Helston, I was contacted by residents from both Porthleven and Helston upset and angry at being issued a ticket. By parking on the verges and out-of-the-way, the owners thought they would be ok. However, that proved to be far from the case.
After all, most people understand you cannot park on single or double yellow lines, but how many actually know the Traffic Regulation Order – makes yellow lines legal – includes the verges and pathways that run along side of the road? I did not, and I bet everyone else who parked on this date didn’t either.
Since being contacted, I have been trying to get the Council (as have other Councillors both near and far) to take a more understanding view on the situation; take into consideration why people parked on the verges; and as an act of good faith, cancel the tickets. This would have gone a long way in turning this public relations disaster into something more positive.
Sadly, this has not happened, as the Portfolio Holder for Transport, Cllr Bert Biscoe – which parking enforcement sits in – has released the following statement on this issue.
I have received a number of representations regarding the issue of Penalty Charge Notices at Helston last week. A number of vehicles were parked in contravention of clearly visible and legally enforceable yellow lines, on the footway, and on the verge. A Council Civil Parking Enforcement Officer witnessed the parking and adjudged that the vehicles on the footway posed a risk to pedestrians, requiring them to pass by stepping into the road. The ‘No Parking at any Time’ Traffic Regulation Order applies as much to the verge as it does to the footway and the verge. The vehicles on the verge would have affected the sightlines of approaching vehicles and therefore, in the estimation of the Civil Parking Enforcement Officer, posed a safety risk to road users.
Having been made aware that a funeral was taking place and as so many vehicles were involved the Enforcement Officer decided to report to his Manager before acting. He reported the nature of the infringements and his assessment of the risks and provided photographs (see attached). His manager agreed that Penalty Charge Notices should be issued. Such notices can, as you know, be appealed by the recipients. The duty of the Enforcement Team is to protect the public by enforcing the regulation through issuance of a penalty notice.
The Parking Manager judged, from the situation report and risks reported to him, that it was the correct course to issue notices and he instructed the Enforcement Officer to proceed. He did so in the knowledge that no enquiries had been received by the Council in advance of the funeral in the nearby chapel. If an enquiry had been received in advance then the Parking Manager would have advised about car parks in the vicinity which would have been able to accommodate the expected vehicles.
I acknowledge that it is very often difficult to estimate in advance the attendance at a funeral, but the roadside in the immediate vicinity of the chapel is subject to a Regulation Order, and, when infringements occur, perpetrators are consistently issued with notices – it is not a safe location to leave unattended vehicles, which put other road users, including pedestrians, at risk. Funerals are organised events and both the Parking Section and the Highways Authority are available to provide appropriate advice in advance to assist organisers to run things safely and carefully.
There has been a consequent expression of concern by various people, including many members, that the action sanctioned by the Parking Manager was disproportionate and unwise. Some have asked for the refund or cancellation of fines due to the exceptional circumstances.
I fully support the decision made by the Parking Manager and I fully acknowledge that the Civil Parking Enforcement Officer gave a factual report and provided his manager with a reasonable assessment of risk. I do not consider that the Penalty Notices should be withdrawn or cancelled, and I would request that you consider the extent to which the authority and reputation of the Civil Enforcement team would be undermined and weakened if such a course was pursued.
Along with everybody else who has commented upon this incident, I feel great sympathy for the relatives of the person whose funeral was taking place in the chapel whilst the Notices were being issued, who now find that the immediate aftermath of what is an emotionally charged and stressful situation is one of political and rhetorical turmoil rather than a period of mourning, remembrance and comforting. That many who chose to attend and support them at the funeral and to pay respects to the deceased should have also chosen to infringe a regulation made to reduce risk and improve safety on a busy road is not their fault, and begs the question whether it would be more appropriate to quietly accept the penalties and, if they choose to appeal, to follow the process without causing unnecessary distress to grieving relatives and close friends.
I am writing to let you know that I fully support both the Civil Parking Enforcement Officer, his colleagues (many of whom have been subjected to comments for the past few days), and the managers in the judgements made and decisions taken in this case. I will not sanction rescission or refund of penalties. Together will all the staff and Cabinet Members of the Council, I am sorry that the family of the deceased has had the aftermath of the funeral of a much loved and respected family member disrupted by a controversy caused by the correct issue of Penalty Charge Notices.
I am sure that lessons will be learned as a result but I would ask that you support the staff who work for you in the public interest, and the family in mourning, by advising that appeals can be made if perpetrators feel thus inclined, and that their process be allowed to take its course without further undue comment.
With best wishes
Cllr Bert Biscoe
Cabinet Member for Transport
I am bitterly disappointed on the way this has ended. I really believed a solution could have been found. However, with this statement, the only way now for the tickets to be cancelled is via the appeals process and if that appeal is not upheld, then the traffic and transport ombudsman.
Not a good day for the Council’s reputation.