The wardens who prevent traffic chaos across Sheffield

Sheffield City Council Parking Services warden Gareth Barrett.
Sheffield City Council Parking Services warden Gareth Barrett.
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They admit they are among most hated workers in Sheffield – with verbal and even physical abuse a daily reality.

And parking wardens in the city face an ever tougher job as they enforce unpopular Sheffield Council decisions on the front line.

Sheffield City Council Parking Services warden Gareth Barrett.

Sheffield City Council Parking Services warden Gareth Barrett.

“Drive off now and they won’t be able to give you a ticket”, one man urges his friend as they spot parking warden Gareth Barrett.

The duo have parked in a no-waiting zone on Wicker while they nip in a takeaway to pick up kebabs.

They came rushing out as Gareth started the process of issuing a £70 penalty charge notice.

He tells them it is a myth he cannot issue a ticket if they do drive away, but adds: “If you move it now, it’s okay, but just be aware these restrictions are in place seven days a week.

“There are signs all around the city.”

It is ten minutes into the shift and a ticket has already been issued to a BMW across the road.

The driver has a disabled badge, but is parked next to a sign saying ‘no loading’ at any time on Stanley Street.

It is a hotspot for illegal parking, which causes problems for unloading lorries – and the car has no driver, note or sign of a breakdown.

Gareth checks the heat of the bonnet and takes the car’s details during a five-minute observation period, before issuing a ticket from his handheld machine.

“It’s a cat and mouse game here”, he says.

“You can move some people off from one space because they come running out of a shop, go across the road to issue a ticket and by the time you come back the first space is full again.”

The council’s team of wardens are given beats to patrol on foot each day, including parking permit zones as well as streets or car parks.

One car also tours problem areas including Fir Vale, near the Northern General Hospital, and Sheffield railway station.

Gareth said wardens will patrol their area two or three times per beat, using different routes.

But he insists city centre CCTV cameras are not used to catch people out, there are no daily targets and wardens are ‘lenient’ when there is a genuine reason.

The 34-year-old, from Rotherham, says: “It’s illegal to set targets, because people might become overzealous. There is nothing like that at all.”

In the city centre, Gareth moves on several drivers from Union Street and Norfolk Row, where there are no-waiting restrictions.

People ask him for advice on where is best to park, bamboozled by the different rules.

On Carver Lane, just off Division Street, a BMW is parked on double yellow lines – a quick scan shows the owner has 11 outstanding tickets.

Gareth says abuse of blue badges for disabled people is also becoming more prevalent and one Sheffield woman recently caught using her mother’s badge for work could face paying £1,000.

The BMW driver returns as the fine is issued and mumbles ‘sorry’ before driving away.

Although most people are calm when fined, but sometimes the situation can escalate – Gareth has twice been threatened with violence.

He says: “You get verbal abuse at least once a day, even if it is just a passing comment.

“You have to have a thick skin, but you understand why people are going to be upset.

“People do forget you are human too, we are the most hated workers I think I read.

“The job isn’t just issuing tickets, it’s about ensuring people don’t abuse restrictions and about keeping a free flow of traffic.

“There was somewhere in Wales where parking became decriminalised and the council didn’t have anything in place – for months it was mayhem with people parking on junctions and roundabouts.

“Wardens are a necessary evil because if that happened here it would be a nightmare.”

“Mostly I do enjoy the job, although there are times I feel it has been a horrible day when you have to give a fine to someone who is really nice and apologetic.”

The wardens’ base does field calls from residents reporting parking breaches and also deals with appeals.

Gareth says genuine emergencies and errors are successful, but there were also bizarre excuses given.

He said: “I remember one lady said she had parked in a permit bay because her friend had seen her boyfriend going in the house with another woman so she had to catch them.

“I don’t think she won.”

Meanwhile Gareth admits even wardens can fall foul of the rules.

He was slapped with a parking ticket shortly after starting the job, for being 25 minutes too late back to his car.

“I’ve driven since I was 17 and got my first ticket six months after starting with the service”, he says. “It was ironic really, but since then I haven’t had another one.”

In numbers:

50 - Parking tickets issued to one persistent offender

5 - Minutes observation period before a fine is issued.

£1,000 - Maximum fine for abusing disabled blue badges

7 - Patrol beats in Sheffield city