Council under fire as cars park in pedestrianised Leighton Buzzard High Street without being fined

'Surely it's time to abandon the rules if no-one is obeying them?'

By Joanna Gravett
Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 2:41 pm
Updated Tuesday, 25th January 2022, 2:42 pm

Central Beds Council is under fire as residents question why cars are getting away with parking in the pedestrianised High Street.

A photo was sent to the LBO showing vehicles in the town centre parking bays, with it claimed that motorists are easily accessing the closed road and not receiving fines.

The High Street has been shut to vehicles since June 2020, with CBC stating that it was "a temporary arrangement" designed to support the re-opening of businesses and the return of the market.

Cars parked in the pedestrianised High Street. Photo: Neil Cairns.

However, it will decide on February 1 if the arrangement will remain permanent.

Voicing his frustrations, reader Neil Cairns claimed: "Looking down the High Street you would never know vehicles were banned, would you?

"No one is taking any notice of the 'No Entry' signs either end, and no-one is enforcing the rules either. So why are all these people complaining they cannot park there? Lots of people already are.

"Waiting for a bus in Lake Street ten minutes later, we observed no end of cars ignoring the 'One Way' system; most were pulling out of the parking places beyond Salisbury House and simply ignoring the signs, and driving off towards Morrisons. No-one was bothering there to enforce the law, either. Surely it's time to abandon the rules if no-one is obeying them?"

Neil claims that people have been ignoring the closure for around one year, either driving around the pole at the bottom of the high street or driving in via Lake Street as the barrier near the taxi rank is usually left open.

He added: "I think some people don't know, as the signs aren't very clear. I personally would like to see it [the road access and parking] reinstated.

"The shops owners down there are up in arms because it has reduced footfall, and some elderly people are complaining because the bus doesn't go there anymore.

"Most elderly or disabled people who want to park are complaining."

Central Bedfordshire Councillor, Victoria Harvey, told the LBO: "It's a terrible situation. My thinking is, and I have raised this in public, that CBC really suffers from not having a parking implementation manager in Highways. They would be the ones who really have a say on the best way we could use traffic regulation orders.

"There's a parking enforcement team but they are in a different department to Highways.

"The problem is with the original ETRO [Experimental Traffic Regulation Order], which suspended parking in the High Street. What it means is that if someone leaves the barrier open and a car parks in the High Street then the parking enforcement team are not able to put tickets on.

"When they pedestrianised the high street, they suspended all existing traffic regulations. CBC officers can shut the barrier but they can't give parking tickets."

Cllr Harvey claims that the monitoring of the barriers has been left to shopkeepers, which isn't ideal, and that there is not enough signage about the road closure.

On the future of pedestrianisation, Cllr Harvey said: "I really want to see the consultation [report] because I have heard such a range of views.

"I think it has been very hard on bus users and disabled people.

"But it has been lovely having that extra space to walk around.

"Some businesses have done well and some have definitely struggled; it has been too far for some customers who are disabled to walk."

She added: "It really is tied in with parking, too, because if we put in a free half hour or hour of parking it gives a very different message to how to go into the town centre."

Cllr Harvey explained that she knew of people who had driven to Milton Keynes to shop instead of the town centre, because its parking options were better.

Before pedestrianiaation, drivers could also park for half an hour for free in the High Street spaces.

She added: "Councillor Dalgarno has visited Leighton Buzzard High Street many times. People may not agree with the final decision [on pedestrianisation, to be made on February 1], but he has really made an effort to come over so many times to the town centre.

"I think the consultation should have happened in the summer, but because of Covid-19, officers have been too busy."

A Central Bedfordshire Council spokeswoman, said: "By ignoring the No Entry sign and entering a pedestrian-only zone the driver is committing a moving traffic offence, unless their vehicle is in category exempted from the restriction.

"At present Central Bedfordshire Council does not have enforcement powers for such offences, which sit with the police. However, there are government plans to provide confer powers to penalise offenders to local authorities and the change in law will come into force later this year.

“A decision on the next steps for the experimental closure of Leighton Buzzard High Street and the one-way route on Lake Street is expected in the near future.”