HYNDBURN'S new traffic wardens took to the streets in a blaze of publicity last September with a pledge to keep the borough clear of obstructions.
The Parkwise scheme promised to improve road safety, traffic flow, journey times and the environment.
But four months on, and roughly 4,000 tickets later, it is being plagued by complaints.
Motorists have accused the Parkwise wardens of being "over-zealous", with tickets being handed out for offences such as parking over the white lines in free car parks, displaying disabled badges the wrong way round and leaving cars unattended to pick up green discs.
Complaints forwarded to the Observer office have included:
- A woman who was given a fixed penalty notice because one of her tyres was on a white line in the Arndale Centre car park.
- A mum-of-three who was slapped with a ticket in the Arndale Centre while she left her new car unattended to pick up a green parking disc.
- Elderly and disabled people who have been issued with fixed penalty notices for incorrectly displaying their badges.
- A disabled man who was booked while parked in a loading bay near Accrington Town Hall as he delivered Christmas toys for underprivileged children.
- A woman who parked on Avenue Parade, Accrington, where there were no road markings suggesting parking restrictions.
Many of those issued with fines claim that their cars were only left unattended for a few minutes.
But officers from Hyndburn Council, which runs the scheme at a local level, insist that if people don't break the law they won't get a ticket.
A council spokesman said: "If a car is parked on a double yellow line it is observed for at least five minutes to see whether it is involved in loading or unloading or setting down passengers - that sort of thing.
"If they don't see any activity during that time the attendants will issue a ticket. The hand-held equipment that the parking attendants have won't allow them to print a ticket until they have observed for five minutes.
"I think people have a different perception of time when they are just nipping into a shop. Five minutes can elapse more quickly than they think.
"Disabled badges have to be displayed so that the serial number and date of issue can be seen.
"With parking bays, basically the vehicle must be parked within the space. We don't want to penalise people unnecessarily, but if drivers park at all different angles they take up spare spaces and can make it more difficult for the next person who comes along."
It has been suggested by disgruntled motorists that the Parkwise attendants have a financial incentive to issue as many tickets as possible but Hyndburn Council insists it will not make huge profits out of the scheme.
The spokesman added: "It is as near as possible to being self-financing. The money from fines goes back into the scheme.
"I think people feel aggrieved that they have been caught out and don't like being punished for what they see as a fairly minor misdemeanour, but they don't think about what impact their thoughtless parking can have on everybody else.
"If you park correctly you won't be given a ticket."
Tim Cowen, director of communications at NCP, which employs the wardens, said: "Despite the popular myth to the contrary, our parking attendants receive no financial incentive linked to numbers of penalty charge notices issued.
"Fair and appropriate parking enforcement is an important public service designed to keep the streets clear and the traffic flowing. It improves road safety and makes town and city centres much more accessible for motorists, pedestrians and public transport."
Know The Law:
A Penalty Charge Notice (PCN) will be issued to any vehicle caught contravening parking regulations.
The owner of the vehicle will then be liable for a £60 charge, reducing to £30 if paid within 14 days.
The following are all offences:
- Parking on yellow lines when waiting or loading restrictions are in force.
- Parking on a pay-and-display machine space without paying the correct amount or clearly displaying the ticket as instructed.
- Parking for longer than paid for in a pay-and-display machine space.
- Parking in a suspended bay during controlled hours.
- Parking in a permit-only parking space, such as in a residents' parking zone, without displaying the necessary valid permit.
- Parking in a specially reserved bay, such as a loading place, a disabled bay or a taxi rank, unless authorised to do so.
- Parking at a bus stop or in a bus lane during prohibited hours.
- Parking on or over the white lines of a parking bay.
- Failing to correctly display a disabled parking badge.