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Parking fines threat to North Walsham meals-on-wheels service

PUBLISHED: 10:06 08 May 2014

Mark and Claire Rushen, owners of The Cockerel Resturant. 

Mark and Claire Rushen, owners of The Cockerel Resturant. PHOTO: ANTONY KELLY

Archant Norfolk 2014

Traffic wardens who have been slapping tickets on cars outside a north Norfolk restaurant are jeopardising a vital meal service to the elderly, it has been claimed.

The owners of The Cockerel Restaurant, in North Walsham, fear their desperately-needed meals on wheels volunteers will drop out if they are at risk of a £60 fine every time they pull up outside to load and off-load.

In recent weeks traffic wardens – now called civil parking enforcement officers – have booked two vehicles delivering food for the scheme after they stopped on double-yellow lines outside the North Street restaurant.

Cockerel owners Mark and Claire Rushen say they have been completely frustrated in their bid to find out who is issuing the tickets so that they can plead their case.

But now North Norfolk District Council (NNDC) has offered to help protect a valuable community service.

The Rushens stepped in after Norfolk County Council stopped running meals on wheels.

Since December 2012 The Cockerel has been delivering hot food to as many as 45 people in North Walsham from Monday to Friday, plus chilled meals to cover the weekend. “We haven’t got enough volunteers as it is and a lot of the ones we have are retired. They are the sort of people who don’t like being in trouble over parking or getting a ticket and may drop out if this isn’t sorted out,” said Mrs Rushen.

“We can’t afford to lose any of them.”

The Rushens said they had spent a frustrating time trying to track down who was issuing the tickets.

But phone calls to Norfolk County Council, North Norfolk District Council, and the Borough Council of King’s Lynn and West Norfolk – which operates the service on behalf of the Norfolk Parking Partnership – had only led to unreturned calls or unhelpful referrals from one authority to another.

The partnership comprises the county council and the city, district and borough councils in Norfolk.

“No-one is accepting responsibility,” said Mr Rushen. He understood that the county was not obliged to provide meals on wheels and had lacked funding to continue the service, but: “If you are asking other people to take over, surely you shouldn’t be punishing them for doing so?”

Mr Rushen said The Cockerel did not make any money out of meals on wheels and he and his wife continued it as a service to vulnerable people in their community, some of whom did not speak to anyone else.

Loading and unloading could take 15-20 minutes because information often had to be passed on about customers from concerned relatives.

An NNDC spokesman said it was not responsible for issuing the tickets but recognised the importance of The Cockerel’s service and hoped it would be able to offer the Rushens a special short-stay permit, for about £20pa, which all the volunteers could use in NNDC’s nearby Vicarage Street Car Park.

■ To volunteer, ring 01692 403743.

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