Traffic wardens tell of ‘aggressive abuse' in Coalisland

No motorists in Coalisland have been issued with parking tickets in six years
No motorists in Coalisland have been issued with parking tickets in six years No motorists in Coalisland have been issued with parking tickets in six years

PARKING attendants have told of "very aggressive" abuse they received during the first patrols for years through Coalisland.

Carloads of youths were said to have followed the wardens around the Co Tyrone town as they were told "not to come back".

Shopkeepers, pedestrians and motorists also hurled "large amounts of abuse" as they patrolled through the town.

Officials have since requested a 'police escort' for further visits to Coalisland.

The traffic wardens' account of their experience is revealed in email correspondence obtained by The Irish News.

Parking attendants have only recently been deployed routinely in Coalisland amid criticism over a lack of penalties issued in the town.

For the past six years there has not been a single parking ticket.

However, a review of the trial deployment was launched after wardens were verbally abused during a visit last month.

In an email, one of the parking attendants described how three vehicles drove off on them during their operations.

He also told how some people hit out at DUP assembly member Maurice Morrow, who has been a vocal critic of Coalisland's lack of parking tickets.

"We were subjected to large amounts of abuse from members of the public, shopkeepers and people travelling through the town in vehicles," the official wrote.

"On a number of occasions we were photographed and challenged as to what we were doing in Coalisland and that Lord Morrow had no right to ask us to go through as the town has nothing to do with him.

"One shopkeeper got very aggressive when [my colleague] was unable to issue to certain vehicles as there were no lines present as is the case with the majority of the town.

"On leaving the town we were subjected to more abuse and told not to come back whilst several car loads of young males followed us around the town giving us dog's abuse."

In another email exchange, an official from NSL – the firm contracted by TransportNI to employ parking attendants – described how they contacted the PSNI to request a police 'escort' for their next visit to Coalisland.

The official said a policewoman suggested that "police accompanying us in this area could possibly inflame the situation", according to communications released through a freedom of information request.

A review of deploying traffic wardens in Coalisland and a 'risk assessment' were launched following the reports of verbal abuse.

However, parking attendants made a return to the town earlier this month. Two 'red coats' patrolled the streets, while police were also spotted nearby.

Instead of giving out Penalty Charge Notices (PCN), which carry a £90 fine, they issued two 'warning notices' to motorists for breaching regulations.

Warning notices carry no financial penalty.

The Department for Infrastructure said this was the final patrol in which warnings would be issued instead of PCNs.

It was only the third time since August that attendants have travelled to Coalisland.

Since 2010 no motorists have been issued with penalty notices, despite other towns of a similar size and smaller receiving tickets.

Road officials have previously defended the lack of penalties, saying that Coalisland does not have many enforceable restrictions such as double-yellow lines.

They have also previously blamed politicians for opposing the creation of new parking restrictions.

Local representatives have said the large majority of people in Coalisland are considerate about where they park and the lack of tickets issued since August indicates that wardens may not be needed.