It did not take Police Scotland long to review traffic warden services, and the plan, entirely expected, is to remove them as a police responsibility, with in all likelihood the local authority taking on the role. If you were paying attention you may have noticed that parking offences were decriminalised in 1997 only 6 years after the Road Traffic Act 1991. This simplification means that the police are no longer required to enforce parking legislation and local councils can either directly or indirectly carry out the enforcement. This move has to be welcomed as it allows the police to focus resources on priority issues, like catching real criminals. That said certain traffic and parking offences are deemed criminal, but I am not sure what dangerous parking actually is. I am sure our local police officers will be telling us pretty soon.
I am interested to hear what is going to happen locally. Here on our not very busy High Street in sleepy Dunbar, we already have a pretty low level wardening presence, which regrettably locals have worked out how to subvert (it is pretty easy, come round and I will explain how). Our local traffic warden is nothing less than charming and diligent, easily the best in East Lothian. But most people seem to take the opposite view and regard wardens as the worst form of low life, parasitic on our human right to be able to park anywhere we like, including illegally, obstructing pavements and crossings.
The media (themselves regarded as a low form of life) play along and perpetuate the myth, but this seems to me to be almost racist in its intent. Most people are insensed by the idea that they cannot park near the establishment they wish to visit, but I cannot see why. Since the hegemony of the car, I cannot recall a time when it was practical to do this, unless you lived in a quiet town like Dunbar, where the parking turnover is pretty high and footfall stubbornly static.
But in a practical sense our lives are changing. Deliveries from our favourite online retailers are increasing and we are all working harder, so each of these deliveries has to made multiple times, which means our streets are cluttered with City Link and DPD vans, with whom I am pretty friendly now, as well as a string of independents using their own vehicles. Each of these might get sent back, especially if you’re a fashion victim, or just suffer from that well-documented and untreatable “buy it now” syndrome.
This brings me to a thought about street architecture. In the old days the post office was somewhere central, probably easily accessible on foot and used to buy stamps and deliver some letters, pick up your dole cheque or your pension. Not today, as businesses will be using the relatively cheap small parcel rate, and so will the general public, whether posting their ebay sales or their returns to Asos. So why not re-engineer the architecture of our streets so that these services are more accessible to car users? Maybe the parcel delivery drop off and pickup points should be relocated out of the town centre? Next to the recycling facilities, where all that waste cardboard and packaging could be dropped off? Or maybe someone could setup such a facility and charge a small amount for the convenience, with evening and weekend opening hours.Just a thought. And spare a thought for our lovely parking warden, whose job is now uncertain. I genuinely hope that the LA get on with this change and provide an improved level of service, for parking offences even in sleepy Dunbar are as common as the car itself. I am not holding my breath.