Towing chaos as parking zone turns to farce

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DOZENS of motorists had their cars towed away as the chaos caused by Edinburgh's new parking rules descended into farce.

Traffic in the south of Edinburgh ground to a halt yesterday with council staff working "flat out" to move vehicles.

Many motorists simply ignored traffic cones which had been hastily put out in a bid to ease congestion on streets just outside the council's new controlled parking zone.

The streets have been clogged with parked cars since the new charges came into force on Monday, causing severe hold-ups.

As the mammoth tow-truck operation caused even bigger delays yesterday, confused motorists were forced to phone the police to track down their vehicles on nearby streets.

Today, the council's use of emergency powers to restrict parking on both sides of 11 streets just outside the zone was expected to finally return a degree of normality to the area.

But yesterday, the delays were worse than ever as council staff turned up to remove vehicles parked alongside traffic cones.

Staff admitted they had never seen anything like it, with dozens of cars towed away from Strathearn Place, Whitehouse Loan and Clinton Road, and dumped in nearby streets such as Grange Terrace and Oswald Road.

Last night, an official council spokeswoman said its records showed only 15 cars had been moved, but admitted some paperwork might not have yet been completed. Council employees said they had already moved close to 20 vehicles by yesterday lunchtime - with another 19 cars next in line.

Nobody was hit with a fine yesterday, because no signs had been erected to warn drivers, but the council said penalties would be issued from today.

Every time a car was hoisted on to the trucks, traffic came to a standstill, with bemused passers-by and residents watching as motorists began tooting their horns in frustration.

But while some areas were gridlocked, other streets in the extended parking zone were deserted.

Retired John O'Brien, 68, from Fountainhall Road, said: "On Lauder Road, there are hardly any cars parked now. Round the corner in Fountainhall Road, which isn't in the zone, it's chockablock.

"If the council thinks it's going to get a lot of money from pay-and-display meters, it's wrong. They just haven't thought this through - there should be a park-and-ride for people from Midlothian to use, which could rush them in to the city centre."

On Monday, two parts of the city - covering Marchmont, the Grange, Hillside and Broughton - became the first new districts to be patrolled by parking Enforcers for more than 30 years. But as the Evening News revealed yesterday, the council is facing a revolt from residents and motorists over the way the scheme has been rolled out.

The police, council officials, parking attendants and staff from Lothian Buses have all been forced to help keep traffic moving at some of the worst-affected areas.

Strathearn Place, a key route between Morningside and Newington, has been the hardest hit.

While neighbouring Strathearn Road is included in the first wave of new restrictions, Strathearn Place won't join the controlled parking zone until November next year. Other streets in the area won't be included at all.

Andrew Bell, spokesman for the Grange Association, said: "People have been somewhat disturbed by the way the introduction of the controlled parking zone has affected the character of this conservation area."

Bridget Stevens, chairwoman of Merchiston Community Council, said people living in her district - due to join the extended zone in January - were fearful of more chaotic scenes.

"The residents of Gillsland Road want to be included in the new zone, but that is unlikely to happen before January, so we will get similar problems unless the double yellow lines are painted first," she said.

The implementation of the zone in Broughton and Hillside has seen increased car parking in Abbeyhill and there are fears that Goldenacre - due to be included at a later date - will be hit by fly-parking when the rest of Inverleith comes on board in January.

Lib Dem Marchmont councillor Marilyne MacLaren said today: "The implementation has been completely farcical. You wouldn't trust these people to organise a kid's tea party."

Councillor Ricky Henderson, the city's new transport leader, admitted there have been "some issues with the implementation".

"We are working to deal with these, but the roll-out has been successful in its goal which was to reduce traffic from residential streets," he said.

'It's been dreadful .. cars both sides'

RESIDENTS today told how they have been marooned in their driveways and forced to park far away from their homes as a result of the parking zone chaos.

Charles Cowie, pictured, a 51-year-old advocate who lives on Strathearn Place, said: "It's been dreadful.

"Streets around here are not wide enough for parked cars on both sides, and the vehicles have made it very difficult for us to get out of our drive."

John O'Brien, 68, from Fountainhall Road, said: "My wife came back from the station and had to drive around for 20 minutes, trying to find a spot.

"Eventually, she found one a mile away from our home and had to walk back."

Charlie Taylor, 41, a chartered surveyor from Greenhill Place, said: "Until the weekend, and for the last eight years, I have been able to park within minutes of my front door.

"I appreciate that this is not some God-given right, but the last two days have been incredible. The quiet side street has disappeared and there are now nose-to-tail cars on either side of the road."

Graham Hills, 80, who lives on the corner of Strathearn Road and Strathearn Place, added: "I'm pleased that the new restrictions have come in, but we've had terrible difficulty getting out of our drive."

'Customers can't call in'

TRADERS on both sides of the new controlled parking zone today warned of a negative impact on their business.

Roger Manson, from the Blackford Avenue Post Office, said motorists were not yet parking outside his shop, but he warned that the council's decision to paint double yellow lines on 11 streets in the Grange could push the problem further south.

"At the moment, the cars are about 50 or 60 yards away, but that could change very soon," he said.

"While some people might park their car and then use the shops in Blackford, the customers who pass through in their cars won't be able to stop anymore and buy something."

David Daulby, owner of the Ashdene House bed-and-breakfast on Fountainhall Road, said: "

There are so many cars on this street now, that there could be an accident - especially as people drive out of Newington Library between two parked cars."

In the new zone, Emily McGregor - owner of the WDM McGregor Grocery and Tea Dealer - said very few customers had visited her since Monday.