Fears over anti-social behaviour and rule-abiding drivers being hit with fines have rocked a decision to make changes to car parks in Wokingham Borough.

Last year, councillor Pauline Jorgensen (Conservative, Hillside) Wokingham Borough’s executive member for highways and transport, individually took the decision to make the council’s car parks operational 24/7, following a consultation, in December.

She argued that the change was needed to crack down on anti-social behaviour and unauthorised car meets at car parks in Wokingham, Woodley and Earley.

Previously, the car parks would have defined operating hours, meaning that they could not be patrolled by parking and community wardens and fines could not be issued outside of these times.

But cllr Jorgensen used an individual member decision (IMD) to change a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO) at the borough’s car parks, which now means the council’s wardens can enforce the park’s rules at all hours of the day, as a deterrent to anti-social behaviour and unauthorised car meets.

READ MORE: Confusion over changes to Wokingham, Woodley and Earley car parks

However,  there were worries that the changes could be used to fine rule-abiding drivers.

Councillor Peter Dennis (Liberal Democrat, Wescott) said: “The council plans to make the borough’s car parks operational 24/7. They claim that they’re not going to be charging 24/7, but by making the car parks operational, it means if someone doesn’t get a ticket, even if it’s free, they could be liable to a parking fine.”

Meanwhile, cllr Maria Gee (Liberal Democrat, Wescott) argued that, although the TRO has been designed to tackle anti-social behaviour, the methods the council can take have not been explicitly laid out.

In response, cllr Jorgensen that there would be no changes to parking charges in the borough, and that people using the car parks outside of the charging period would not be charged, or need to take tickets out outside charging times either.

The TRO means wardens can fine people for unauthorised use of the car parks, and allows wardens to patrol the car parks outside of charging times to act as a deterrent people who would cause a nuisance.

Councillor Guy Grandison (Conservative, Maiden Erlegh) explained:  “This is about expanding the assets we have in our arsenal, providing a deterrent factor and offering the police support in dealing with this.

“The more tools we have in our disposal the better, as opposed to having to deal with things with one arm behind our back.

“I’d rather have an option and not use it, than need it and not have it.”

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Cllr Jorgensen’s IMD to change TROs to make car parks operational 24/7 was subjected to scrutiny on Tuesday, February 8 after cllr Shirley Boyt (Labour, Bulmershe & Whitegates) and four other councillors subjected it to a ‘call-in’.

Councillors are allowed to call in decisions made by executive councillors, for review by the overview, scrutiny and management committee.

The committee can either confirm the decision made by the executive councillor, or ask them to reconsider and make recommendations for how the decision can be adapted.

Yet the bid for the decision to be reconsidered failed, with councillors voting six to five to confirm it.