Parking officials are to make “daily visits” to the Nightingale Estate in Hackney Downs following complaints from residents about cars blocking three emergency access routes.
The estate is not part of the controlled parking zone (CPZ) after residents voted against it during a consultation in 2015, meaning parking is free.
It has led to cars avoiding the CPZ and instead clogging up the estate, so much so that three gates, which have signs warning drivers they may need to be used by the emergency services, are being blocked.
After being informed by residents about the “dangerous” situation, the council sent out a letter last December informing them that, from 9 January, it would “begin enforcement on all existing double yellow lines and cars blocking the emergency access gates on the estate”.
But according to James MacDaid, who lives on the estate, “nothing was done”. He said: “If there was a fire, a resident that got sick, or police that needed to quickly get onto the estate, there is absolutely no chance they’d be able to.
“God forbid there is an incident that needs emergency services – someone will be hurt unnecessarily and someone at the council will be looking at losing their job.”
MacDaid says he and other residents have raised the issue with the Town Hall on several occasions before and after 9 January, but says there is “no enforcement”.
He added: “There is a yellow car that has been parked in front of one of the gates for two months. It boggles my mind.”
When the Hackney Citizen visited the estate, all three access points were blocked and none of the culprits appeared to have received a parking ticket.
The very next day, after the council was informed about the impending story, all the cars in front of the emergency access routes had penalty notices lodged under the windscreen wipers.
But illegally parked vehicles nearby appeared to have escaped unscathed.
When asked if the Town Hall had issued any instructions to local parking officials in that time, a spokesman admitted: “With regards to enforcement on 14 March, officers were asked to attend the emergency access points on Ferron, Charnock and Heyworth Roads and a number of penalty charge notices were issued.”
According to Alice Burke, chair of the Nightingale Estate Residents’ Association (NPRA), the parking problems have dominated meetings for years. She said: “To be fair, I think the council is doing its best. Unfortunately, it is not quite good enough.”
Burke called for “higher penalties” to deter drivers, adding: “The council should tell people that their cars will be towed away, not just ticketed, if they continue to block the access routes. It is incredibly dangerous. It is an accident waiting to happen.”
A Hackney Council spokesperson said: “During a consultation in 2015, 60 per cent of residents in the Nightingale Estate said they did not want to become part of a controlled parking zone, therefore the area is not in a CPZ, there are no parking restrictions and we are unable to carry out parking enforcement there.
“However, in January the council wrote to residents to ask them to report any vehicles that were seen to be parked illegally. In light of continuous reports of vehicles blocking emergency exits and pathways, we will be undertaking daily visits to the areas affected and will enforce where necessary.”
But MacDaid called the response “nonsense” and accused the council of a “covering exercise”, saying: “The council towed cars when they needed to mark up the CPZ, but not when lives are at risk. It needs to get its priorities straight.
“Also, as far as I am aware, residents were not asked to be vigilant and report illegal parking, but instead informed that the council would enforce its new parking criteria – it clearly has not and still remains lax.
“Why has it taken until 14 March for anything to be done despite Hackney Downs councillor Sem Moema raising it with the estate manager on a number of occasions and with the head of Streetscene about two weeks ago?
“The council is still not enforcing all the pedestrian walkways, double yellow lines, or just illegal parking, as it said it would. And residents have made complaints about all of them, to my understanding.
“The response seems to be a covering exercise to ensure they can say they did something, as seen with the quick enforcement action on 14 March.”
The London Fire Service is yet to respond to an approach for comment./ 17 March, 2017