REDBRIDGE: Police and council powerless to enforce traffic laws

11:35am Tuesday 24th March 2009
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By Daniel Binns »

A COUNCIL blunder has led to a driving free-for-all in Redbridge with the authority and police powerless to stop motorists breaking many laws.
Dozens of regulations - such as those designed to ensure drivers obey one-way streets, yellow-box junctions and no stopping zones outside schools - have not been enforced since February, when the Met handed over responsibility to local councils.
But the council has failed to pass the legislation necessary for it to perform this role in time - leaving it powerless to enforce traffic laws on the borough’s streets until July at the earliest.
The authority plans to rely on CCTV, including the use of a controversial ‘spy car’ but critics believe the measure is inadequate, given the scale of the task involved.
Adam Schofield, a parent at Aldersbrook Primary school, which has long suffered with reckless drivers outside the school gates, said: “It’s a great concern - what’s the point of having these rules if they mean nothing? I’m worried about the safety of our kids.”
Fellow parent Elizabeth Canavan, of Merlin Road, added: “It is a concern. Parents should have some responsibility and be sensible enough not to put lives at risk. But in our experience the police were doing a great job when they stood outside the school warning parents.”
Major offences such as speeding and most parking laws are still being enforced, but many community leaders are worried.
Chelmsford and Derby Road Neighbourhood Watch Chief Frank Cruder said: “The whole thing is a complete and utter farce. People are committing all these so-called minor crimes and no-one is enforcing the law.
“Prior to this the police have done a couple of operations where they’ve stopped heavy goods vehicles from using our roads, but I can’t see the council being able to do things like that.
“And how will they enforce access-only signs with just CCTV? Are we all going to have to register our vehicles?”
Bob Hughes, Chairman of the Church End ward panel, said: “It’s ludicrous. The council should have been more pro-active and the police should have been talking to the borough a lot more.”
Opposition Woodford Green Cllr Richard Hoskins branded the situation “a shambles.”
He added: “This weekend I checked the stretch of Woodford High Road between George Lane and Bancroft’s School. In that section alone there are 251 different road signs and 53 sets of lights at junctions and crossings.
“Redbridge Council cannot afford to buy enough CCTV cameras to carry out the needed enforcement and if it did they would swamp the monitors it has.”
A council spokesman said: “The council welcomes the continuing interest and action by the police in all matters of road safety and dangerous driving, including those offences which the council will commence enforcement of in July.
“The council intends to undertake this new area of enforcement by utilising its CCTV capacity which includes fixed and portable cameras as well as a camera equipped ‘Smart’ car.
“Unlike the police our officers do not have powers to stop motorists and obtain their details, this will be achieved by interrogation of the DVLA records as a part of the Penalty Charge Notice issue process.
“In taking on these powers the council has the opportunity to target its enforcement action to areas of greatest need and to decide upon the level of resources applied to this task.”
The changes come after the introduction of the Traffic Management Act 2004 and the Transport for London Act 2003.
Most other councils in London, such as neighbouring borough Waltham Forest, have already taken over traffic enforcement.
According to council documents, despite the authority gaining approval from umbrella group London Councils to use CCTV, “it has since been established that full council approval is required to fix an appointed day” before the laws can be enforced in Redbridge.
While police are powerless to enforce non compliance with certain signs, they can still act if they suspect a motorist is driving “dangerously”.
Transport for London also have the right to enforce regulations in some roads.