Council confirms cost to ratepayers of unlawful encampment on Tunnard Street Car Park
Boston Borough Council has provided an update on the cost to ratepayers of the recent unlawful occupation of Tunnard Street Car Park.
The Council understands the concerns raised by the community at the time and wishes to confirm the associated costs, the decision-making process regarding not issuing Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for occupying the car park unlawfully or Fixed Penalty Notices (FPNs) for fly-tipping, and the rationale for the temporary closure of certain Council services.
In total, including the time of officers, clean-up costs and repairs, lost income and legal expenses, the cost to the Borough Council in responding to the incursion was £8,792.
The Leader of the Council, Councillor Anne Dorrian, explained: "This was the largest and most disruptive incursion I can ever remember in Boston and it seriously affected local people, local business and indeed the Council. The level of anti-social behaviour that we experienced was quite unprecedented for this town and it proved to be exceptionally challenging for Lincolnshire Police and a number of our own services.
"As a direct result of the circumstances at the time, the police incident command considered it unsafe for Council staff to visit the car park and as a result, it was not possible for us to issue PCNs for breaches of our Car Parking Order, or FPNs for littering or fly tipping. I completely understand the anger that has aroused in local residents and I share that view wholeheartedly, however, I also know that the majority of residents fully acknowledge that we could not risk the safety of council workers by ignoring police advice and sending them into a highly charged situation.
"It was my intention to pursue this matter once the travellers left the town but I have since learned that whilst the private sector can issue parking PCNs retrospectively, public bodies are subject to more stringent requirements. Under current legislation, this Council's PCNs must either be attached to the windscreen at the time of the offence or given to the person appearing to us to be in charge of the vehicle. They can only be sent through the post if we are prevented from serving a PCN that has been produced, or the vehicle is driven away when we had already begun to prepare a PCN. This means that even though we have the registration numbers of all the vehicles, we are not allowed to issue the penalty after they have left the area. I am extremely sorry about that. With regard to the littering, unfortunately the CCTV was obstructed so we don't have any footage that we can use as evidence and again, I offer my sincere apologies to the public."
Councillor Dorrian, also explained the decision to close several services, including the Geoff Moulder Leisure Centre and the Market.
"The decision to temporarily close certain Council services was not taken lightly. We deemed it unsafe to erect the market stalls following disruption by individuals, when threats of violence were levelled at our workforce and attempts were made to steal vehicles and machinery. Similarly, the Geoff Moulder Leisure Complex was closed following the arrival of several individuals who refused to pay entry fees and were very intimidating towards our staff.
"The Council made the choice to close/cancel these services to ensure the safety of the public and our employees during a period of heightened tension, as well as evaluating and implementing appropriate security measures to protect both people and property.
"The Council understands the frustration and inconvenience caused by the closure of services, and we apologise for the disruption. At all times, our priority was the safety and wellbeing of our community and workforce.
"This incident, which lasted three days, resulted in the most robust response we've seen from the Police to such a situation for many years, and police officers from neighbouring forces were drafted in to enable them to use extraordinary powers. The Council are thankful to the police and our own officers for resolving the incident as fast as the process allowed them to. I had a full de-brief from Superintendent Pat Coates a few days afterwards, where he was able to explain some of the challenges that he faced at the time and his reasoning behind certain decisions.
"We are in the process of undertaking our own internal de-brief to understand what learning we can take from this incident, along with any preventative measures that we can put in place to avoid this happening again.
"We thank you for your understanding and patience during what was an extremely difficult time for many members of our community."