Disc parking scheme pilot project for Hawick scrapped

Hawick councillor Watson McAteer showing in High Street.
Hawick councillor Watson McAteer showing in High Street.

A bid to try out a disc-based parking system in Hawick has been abandoned after it failed to win support from the police, it has emerged.

Scottish Borders Council agreed in November to introduce the system for a three-month period from next month until May in both Hawick and Selkirk.

The proposed pilot project was agreed in a bid to stop irresponsible motorists driving trade away from the High Street by taking up parking spaces for hours – or even days – on end.

Since the Borders traffic wardens were removed in February 2014, there has been a marked increase in the flaunting of traffic regulations.

On-street parking breaches, such as parking on double-yellow lines, remain a criminal offence, but Police Scotland no longer have a dedicated traffic warden service to tackle them.

However, plans to address the problem with a disc-based system now lie in tatters, leaving one of the town’s councillor to claim frustrated town shopkeepers have been let down.

In a letter to councillors, Tracey Logan, chief executive of the council, says: “Despite initial positive feedback from the police about a disc-based parking system, it has now been clarified at national level that Police Scotland will not enforce a disc-based parking system and therefore implementing such a system is not necessary.”

Ms Logan said that as an alternative, the police had agreed to support a campaign of increased activity on parking enforcement between March and May to enforce parking regulations and target particular hotspots in both towns.

She added: “I now intend to ask officers to work with the police on the targeted campaign for Hawick and Selkirk and would suggest that no further action is taken on the implementation of a disc-based parking system.”

One of the recommendations also agreed by the council was that its roads department establish a rolling programme of inspections to ensure that all signage and restricted markings in areas are clear, visible and enforceable.

Ms Logan added: “This work will commence in the weeks ahead and will roll out across the Borders.”

However, Hawick and Denholm councillor Watson McAteer, a former police chief, said he had advised the council’s leadership that the disc pilot scheme had “absolutely no chance of being introduced”.

And he believes those shopkeepers in the town currently plagued by inconsiderate parking had been “left in exactly the same place”.

He said: “Parking discs are traditionally introduced as part of a decriminalised parking scheme and have little, if any, evidential value within the current criminal justice-regulated procedures.

“Even if introduced, it could only have been done in a voluntary way so drivers would have had a choice, again leading to inconsistent and potentially a very divisive way of enforcing the law. You voluntarily buy and then display your disc.

“Worst still, this means that shopkeepers who had attended a previous council meeting looking for help with inconsiderate parking have been left exactly in the same place, with the police being asked to do more, and how likely is that?

“In addition we have just seen the town centre index report and the significant footfall reduction in Hawick.

“Doing nothing about High Street parking is simply not an option.

“At a council level, there is the question about potentially being misled when the decision to proceed with this pilot beat a motion to seek public support for a decriminalised scheme.

“This matter should, in my opinion, be returned to the council chamber for further debate and explanation. This is simply not good enough.”

Other Hawick councillors have also expressed disappointment that pleas for a decriminalised parking system in the town centre fell on deaf ears.

Hawick and Hermitage councillor Davie Paterson made an impassioned plea for the introduction of such a scheme, putting enforcement back in the authority’s hands, at a November council meeting, but that appeal was rejected on cost grounds.

He said: “I argued that we desperately needed to do something to curtail the parking for excessive lengths of time on the high streets of our Borders towns.

“I argued that it was having a disastrous effect on shops, and I seconded a motion that we should look to go down the road of decriminalised parking, but some councillors argued that the set-up costs were too expensive.

“I said the police would certainly not have the time or the manpower to enforce the disc parking.”

Fellow ward member Ron Smith, the council’s executive member for planning and environment, said: “The decriminalised parking enforcement working group had recommended a course of action involving parking discs which the council felt it could not progress because of the set-up costs.

“A compromise position was to investigate using the discs but for these to help police enforce the regulations. That, in turn, has now been dismissed, by the police.

We are left with a situation where police say they will give added priority to parking enforcement on the High Street and other sensitive areas for a two-month period. It is difficult to see where we can go from here in the longer term.”