Police in Shetland could be weeks away from deciding to recruit a new traffic warden to help deal with mounting parking chaos.
The new area commander, Chief Inspector David Bushell, is assessing the need for a new warden following concerns of a free for all among motorists who abandon their cars in the town centre.
Following a meeting with infrastructure executive director Gordon Greenhill last week, Chief Insp Bushell will hold discussions with colleagues at Northern Constabulary’s headquarters in Inverness. He is expected to reach a decision within the next couple of weeks.
He said: “I’m conscious of the traffic issues in the town and I’m keen that we are being proactive in making sure there are no more major problems.” However, he stressed no final decision had been made yet on the appointment.
The last traffic warden left his post over two years ago and has never yet been replaced.
In the past police have said existing officers would continue to enforce traffic regulations themselves, but many in the town say cars are often wrongly parked in the town centre because owners know they will not get caught.
The issue was raised by councillor Gussie Angus at Tuesday’s infrastructure committee. He said he had received feedback from members of the emergency services, who said some streets in Lerwick could pose particular problems when it comes to gaining access to emergencies.
“There’s been a deterioration in parking discipline in central Lerwick since the last traffic warden resigned, and there is considerable congestion in Lerwick caused by parking.” Mr Angus said.
“The chief constable has ignored repeated pleas from this council to replace him. We’ve been requesting a traffic management plan for over two years.
“Emergency services say they might have difficulty accessing parts of Lerwick because of parking. I hope we can have a traffic management report at this committee before too long.”
Mr Angus previously raised the problem at a recent meeting of the Lerwick Community Council. He said he had seen cars parking outside the SYIS building, blocking off access for other vehicles trying to negotiate their way round the Market Cross.
He said many people did not care about how irresponsibly they parked because they knew they would not get into trouble for it.
“Irresponsible parking has increased because the chances of irresponsible parking being checked by the police is minimal. Ten to one you’re not going to get lifted.”
Mr Angus’ comments were backed by Lerwick Town Centre Association chairman Laurence Smith, who said not enough was being done to combat problem parking.
“We [the association] had a meeting with the police two months ago, but we have yet to see any action,” Mr Smith said. “It’s just getting quite bad. There are cars going through the pedestrianised area in the street, which defeats the purpose of having a pedestrianised area at all.
“People in general think they can drive through the centre of the street and park wherever they want and for as long as they want in a short term parking area. Sometimes it has just been chaotic.”
Mr Smith said the situation has become so bad a widespread review of the street’s pedestrianisation is now well overdue.
“I think it’s one of those things that need to be looked at. Years ago people used to be able to drive through the street whenever they wanted. Pedestrianisation orders were created, but time goes on. After some time it’s a good idea to review the pedestrianisation orders.”
One measure which could help prevent illegal parking is the improvement of Harrison Square. A range of proposals have been devised which could see dramatic changes brought to the area directly behind the new public toilets and Harbour House.
Among the proposals are plans to see the through-route disappear altogether, giving way to a wider pedestrianised area.
The plans were recently put to the community council for consultation. Roads engineer Colin Gair said the authority would take on board views expressed by the community council before deciding on a final layout for the area.
The narrow road which goes round the square from Ian’s Chip Shop, coming out between the back ends of Harbour House and Conochies, is frequently clogged as lorries making deliveries often vie for space with illegally-parked cars.