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Parking wardens taken off patrol in Ashford and Tenterden to answer calls to Ashford Lifeline

Parking wardens are being taken off the streets to answer helpline calls in the wake of the coronavirus.

The move has been made by Ashford Borough Council and comes after a row erupted when two officials were observed at work in Tenterden on Saturday.

Builder Mike Carter, witnessed wardens sweeping through Tenterden High Street issuing tickets and described the actions as "abhorrent".

One Tenterden motorist gets slapped with a ticket
One Tenterden motorist gets slapped with a ticket

He said: "Tenterden looked eerie, like a ghost town and drivers of the few cars parked there were probably picking up shopping or prescriptions.

"It's a disgrace that they were issuing fines when we are dealing with the coronavirus as you don't know what connotations it is having for people's lives. They may have lost their jobs or be caring for someone who is ill."

Mr Carter, who is also a town councillor added: "Perhaps wardens should be helping to mark out appropriate social distancing spaces for queues instead of issuing tickets at a time like this."

Tenterden resident Paul Webster was also outraged after seeing cars being ticketed around 5.30pm on Saturday.

He said that he was "flabbergasted" to see Ashford council wardens at work during a period of national emergency when "health services, teachers, business owners, self-employed business owners, parents and civil servants are all stepping up to do their part in these extraordinary times."

Mr Webster called for fines to be waived from last Friday when bars, shops and restaurants were told by the government to close.

A parking warden at work in Tenterden
A parking warden at work in Tenterden

He added that he was "not attacking the parking inspectors but rather highlighting the misappropriate allocation of council resources in these unique and unprecedented times."

A council spokesman said that due to the coronavirus emergency traffic wardens were now being reassigned and trained to carry out community duties and that only significant parking violations would be punishable.

"We can advise that as of March 23 our civic enforcement officers will primarily be working on duties essential to supporting community services rather than on parking duties.

"They are still dealing with significant parking incidents which are reported to the council, for example, to ensure free flow of traffic for emergency vehicles, to respond to reports of dangerous parking and protecting parking provision for disabled and blue badge holders."

New duties for Ashford parking wardens include supporting Ashford Lifeline, a personal home security system, where vulnerable residents can get help in a medical or personal emergency by pressing a button that connects them to a trained advisor.

The authority will also now allow resident permit holders to park for free in council car parks to free up congested residential streets, which are filled with the cars from a new army of home-workers.

For the latest coronavirus news and advice, click here.

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