Published: 11:17, 30 September 2020
| Updated: 11:31, 30 September 2020
Dangerous parking outside schools should be treated as anti-social as drink driving, according to a council leader.
Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite believes more needs to be done to tackle the problem which he says is playing "Russian roulette" with young people's lives.
The pandemic has thrown up a host of new challenges but the return of parents parking on pavements and obstructing pathways since schools reopened earlier this month remains a sticking point.
At a joint transport board meeting held last week Cllr Kite discussed steps that could be considered to make sure children were safe and promised more decisive action on the issue.
The Tory said: "It is time for us to be really frank about school parking.
"Schools were never designed to have this number of parents arrive by cars. And it's very difficult to change the geography, but we can do some things."
He said school designers had "missed a chance" by not accommodating airport-style "kiss and go slots" where cars can drop off students more safely.
Mr Kite added: "We are going to have to try and make parking dangerously around schools as anti-social as we used to make drink driving or driving without a seatbelt."
Fellow Tory councillor Ann Allen added a suggestion that when parents apply for schools, they should fill out a form telling the school how they plan to get to the building.
The Kent County Council representative for Wilmington hopes this will encourage more children to walk, cycle or car share, or failing that, think twice about their behaviour around schools.
Both councillors were in attendance at the launch of Wilmington Parish Council's community lorry watch on Monday.
The scheme, in conjunction with Kent County Council and Kent Police, aims to educate HGV drivers who break the road restriction and drive down a narrow lane.
It has been set up along Common Lane to monitor the 7.5 tonne weight restriction which was introduced in 2018 following a campaign by the parent-led Wilmington Safer Streets group .
Common Lane provides access to Asquith Day Nursery and Pre-School, Wilmington Primary School, Wilmington Academy and Wilmington Grammar School for Boys.
It also serves neighbouring Wilmington Grammar School for Girls which, together with the nursery and academy, has increased pupil numbers in recent years.
Parish Cllr Stacey Brown was spurred into action when parking problems meant an ambulance struggled to reach her home off Common Lane to tend to her ill five-day-old baby.
The mum-of-two says the latest scheme is less about attributing blame and more to do with "concerted action between all stakeholders" to educate drivers.
"It is not about catching people out – we just want people to understand," she said.
The details of those lorry drivers caught breaking the rules are logged and letters sent to their employers, advising them to avoid using the road in future.
Cllr Brown was joined on the watch by police community support officer for Dartford , Alan Mitchell, who also monitors the parking situation locally, working in conjunction with parking attendants.
"If people are parking dangerously we have no choice but to move them on," he said.
PCSO Mitchell believes the situation is worse in the afternoon when parents often wait for longer periods of time and said they often become abusive when challenged.
But he added tackling the problem was one of resource, adding "someone has to be here to enforce it".
Meanwhile Dartford council leader Jeremy Kite refused to rule out stricter and harder penalties for those found flouting the rules.
He said: "I think we are going to need some sort of concerted effort and I think the government should help us, really.
"If people are parking dangerously we have no choice but to move them on"
"There should be an accelerated or almost more egregious piece of parking legislation around schools which allows us to levy heavier penalties."
The government launched a three-month consultation in August on whether there should be a change to the existing pavement parking legislation.
The practice is currently banned across London authorities and other councils across the country have been urged to follow suit.
Dartford council opted not to adopt an outright ban and instead said it would monitor the situation locally and implement measures where it felt it necessary.