Sunday, March 11, 2007

Respectable vandals

There's regularly local media coverage of vandalism, with the main perpetrators apparently being disaffected youths with no concept of respect or social reponsibility. Walking down my street the other day I found another kind of vandalism, but one which won't get 'respect' headlines or visible 'blitz it' campaigns.

Pavement and verge parking. I took a few pictures of some stunning examples of parking, planning to prepare a post on the subject and an email to the council. Most of the verge parking was done by residents, people who you would think wouldn't want the area in which they live to look like a day at Diggerland.


But then by coincidence a few days later I received a letter from South Tyneside Council. Once I drew my eyes away from the awful presentation and grammar, I found that our Council was threatening to take action against motorists parking on the green verges. I presume this was prompted by a resident in my street, as residents in adjacent streets with equally Somme-like verge damage haven't received the letter.

So, what will our council do with these anti-social motorists? According to the letter from the Council, prosecution under the Highways Act 1980 or a vague "could be considered to be Criminal damage".


Sounds good. However, our Police are already stretched and this kind of activity comes low on their list of priorities. So we should have cause to celebrate when the recent South Tyneside Council On View magazine told us that new Decriminalised Parking Enforcement would "reduce dangerous and inconvenient parking". But the council's 'Parking Team' dashes hope, saying that "South Tyneside Council can only issue PCNs to cars parked on footpaths where there is a yellow line restriction."

Our councillors aren't much better, where similar anti-social behaviour has been met with appeasement by offering to tarmac, concrete over or replace green verges with parking bays - often using Community Area Forum 'environment' budgets (yes I know, it's bitterly ironic). There's little surprise in this attitude - politicians have become terrified of annoying drivers.

Green tree-lined avenues are disappearing. As a community, we don't value the green verges. We park on them, discard our litter and allow our dogs to shit on them.

At least if you drop litter or let your dog poo without picking it up you can get an on-the-spot fine. If you're a Council tenant and cause problems for the neighbours you will become the focus of the Council's remedial 'Respect' policy, with the threat of an Anti-Social Behaviour Order.

But park on the verge and you get little more than Council hand wringing and feeble letters.

The simple answer is to introduce on-the-spot fines for these vandals. Moves are already under way in Newcastle and London to introduce such schemes. If fining irresponsible parkers doesn't work, then ASBO their ass into showing some R.E.S.P.E.C.T. for something that belongs to all of us.


Curly said...

Here, here!!

I'm getting sick and tired of reading about green turning to concrete grey, even the old railway/cycle path in Whiteleas (Heaton Gardens) is about to have parking bays planted on it!

rossinisbird said...

One of the concerns for me is that a lot of these are done under the guise of environment improvements, against research that indicates concreting verges makes roads faster and more dangerous for pedestrians, particularly children.