Essex

Scheme offers free parking for information on vandals

glue in one of the Dedham machines Image copyright Ian Wickes
Image caption Coin slots on the parking meters were filled with glue just days after charges were introduced

Vigilant drivers are being encouraged to help catch vandals by the offer of two years' free parking.

The plan has been implemented in Dedham, near Colchester, after parking meters were pulled from the ground and their coin slots filled with glue.

The meters have been targeted since parking charges were introduced last year.

Dedham Parish Council chairwoman Sheila Beeton said she hoped the "novel" idea would end a "persistent problem".

Colchester Borough Council, which manages the car park with the parish council, is offering two years' free parking for information leading to the arrest and conviction of whoever is responsible for causing the criminal damage.

The parking would be worth up to £2,920.

The borough council originally attempted to introduce parking charges in 2013, but shelved the idea because of concerns about the effect on tourism and businesses.

Image copyright BBC/Laurence Cawley
Image caption Dedham sits within an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and is a popular tourist destination in the east of England
Image copyright Ian Wickes
Image caption Colchester Borough Council is offering two years of free parking for information leading to the prosecution of the vandals

But the charges of up to £4 a day for those using the Mill Lane and Mill Pond car parks were introduced in April 2014.

Within days of the new regime, coin slots in the meters were filled with glue, preventing their use.

'No huge vendetta'

And in November, a 4x4 was used to pull one of the meters out of the ground. At that stage all of the main meters were removed.

Mrs Beeton said: "There is no reason to believe there is a huge vendetta by the whole community. I tend to think it is just a couple of people."

The parking meters are set to be restored with barriers used as protection.

Mrs Beeton said the majority of people who used the car park were visitors and that any money raised would be used for community facilities.

Colchester borough councillor Nick Barlow said the council was "determined" to find the vandals and urged anyone with information to come forward.

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