Council scorns 'nice earner' claim
Monday, December 4, 2006
By Ross Smith
A civil servant told council bosses their plans for loading bays could constitute "entrapment" because vehicles would be too wide to fit inside them.
The comment is the latest controversy to beset Sunderland Council's parking system.
The council wanted to create loading bays in Front Street in Concord, Washington, which were smaller than the legal width.
But a Department for Transport official warned them on November 6 this year: "Let's not forget there are elements of potential entrapment here - ie they almost entice lorries to use bays they cannot fit into, then they can fine them for not parking within the bay. Nice little earner!!"
Government Office North-East also told Sunderland Council on November 13 that a loading bay already in place in Holmside in the city would have to be extended to the full 2.7m.
It was originally just 1.5m wide, but the council did evtend it this year to 2m.
And it emerged that other loading bays in the city were already well before the legal minimum width.
But Sunderland Council chief executive Ged Fitzgerald said yesterday: "The council totally refutes any inference that there has been any form of entrapment in the context of decriminalised parking in the city of Sunderland."
The council asked for permission for a bay two metres wide - smaller than the legal 2.7m minimum.
The council said it had not yet created the bay in Front Street, and it would comply with regulations when it did.
The loading restrictions are being created in response to traders' concerns about parking. The problem in Holmside is understood to have been uncovered by an internal review of the city's parking problems, which reported last January.
It was carried out in response to a series of blunders over signs, lines and traffic orders which forced the authority to repay thousands of pounds in wrongly collected fines.
However, the council insists its overall regime remains legally robust.
It was buoyed in its claim by a parking adjudicator's decision last month to reject 26 out of 28 appeals taken by campaigner Neil Herron, who has fought against the system.
The council recently decided to take control of on-street parking back "in house" after staff from its contractor, NCP, were filmed making racist remarks in an undercover documentary.
Northumbria Police said they were "looking into" information about the parking system in Sunderland, but had not launched a formal investigation.
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