Council needs powers to act on illegal use of public road

COMMENT: Ask for ID - it’s better to be safe than sorry

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Portsmouth City Council’s crackdown on caravans and other non-motorised vehicles left to stand on public roads has, we think, been generally welcomed by the public.

And certainly the high-profile destruction of seizures will go a long way to getting the message across.

But this will be of little comfort to people living near the Canoe Lake, who feel that the council should be doing more to stop workmen illegally sleeping in vehicles parked on the road.

It takes up parking spaces and, say residents, leads to litter problems – but it’s certainly not a new issue.

Two years ago, the council received similar complaints at the same location and people apparently living in motor homes were told they faced prosecution if they didn’t move on.

Residents say that the van dwellers have returned and are frustrated at what they see as a lack of action.

Local councillor Matthew Winnington is right to say that a bylaw in one area is only likely to push the problem to somewhere else.

And council officers make the point that it is not always easy to catch people in the act of illegally using a vehicle as a home.

But, if a general crackdown can be initiated against the effective dumping of caravans on public roads, cannot the same be done for the enforcement of the law in this case?

If it is illegal, shouldn’t a council officer be empowered to clamp the vehicle, to ensure it is not driven away while arrangements are made to tow it to a pound?

Then the simple rule could be that in the first instance, the owner should pay a release fee and, in the second, have his or her vehicle destroyed and be legally required to meet the bill for that.

It is a more punitive way of going about things but, were such powers granted, we are sure that the problem encountered by residents near the Canoe Lake would very soon disappear.

Quite simply, the law is clear – as in so many cases, we just need a means to enforce it.