Motorists are to be allowed to park for free across the country during the coronavirus outbreak as council scale back restrictions and enforcement, The Telegraph understands.
Some councils have instructed wardens against widespread ticketing of drivers parked in resident only bays, urging staff to instead adopt a “common sense” approach when issuing penalties.
It comes as councils and hospitals announced parking charges would be waived for NHS staff during the coronavirus pandemic after anger erupted when some health workers received fines.
Havering Council, in east London, declared drivers who do not own a resident permit are now allowed to park in spaces that could usually result in a financial penalty.
In response to one motorist, who tweeted the authority to ask if he was allowed to park in a residential zone, the council replied: “Yes if you park in the marked parking bays. Please don’t park on yellow lines unless it is at a time that on-street signage says you are permitted to do that. Also, please don’t park across a resident’s driveway unless you have their permission.”
Newham Council, also in London, confirmed it would only penalise drivers who park in “an obstructive or dangerous way only” in a relaxing of its restrictions.
While Kensington and Chelsea and Caerphilly councils added it will no longer be taking enforcement action against residents whose parking permits have expired.
The Telegraph understands the measures were introduced by councils across the country as part of a widespread move to relax restrictions, and in some cases suspend fixed penalties.
According to guidance seen by this newspaper, enforcement action has been generally scaled back in favour of “common sense judgments” when dealing with resident permits.
Councils may adopt varying approaches over the issue depending on current pressures affecting its workforce and rules put in place before the coronavirus outbreak.
And some enforcement will remain for safety reasons, such as councils keeping access clear to hospitals and food depots.
In Cornwall, the council announced it would suspend car parking charges across the county until the end of April.
The authority said it would reevaluate the situation on a monthly basis, with a spokesman declaring now was “not the time for anyone to worry about parking charges”.
Cllr Geoff Brown, from the council, added: “We need residents to stay at home and stay safe.
“We also want to make it as easy as possible for essential workers to get to and from work and removing parking charges is one way in which we can support them during this critical time.
“It is really important, however, that people always remember to park considerately and continue to follow government guidance about avoiding any unnecessary travel.”
In Guildford, city centre car parks have been designated as free to use, with refunds on offer for anyone who has applied for a parking permit.
The relaxation of parking restriction comes after charges were axed at hospitals following an outcry that doctors and nurses would have to pay to fight coronavirus.
Schemes have been introduced to suspend parking charges for health workers, social care workers and NHS volunteers for on-street parking and pay-and-display car parks as they go about their work.
Health secretary Matt Hancock confirmed last week that central government would provide immediate financial backing for NHS Trusts to cover the cost of NHS staff’s parking “for the duration of Covid-19”.
Mr Hancock said: ‘Our NHS is facing an unprecedented challenge, and I will do everything I can to ensure our dedicated staff have whatever they need during this unprecedented time.
“So we will provide free car parking for our NHS staff who are going above and beyond every day in hospitals across England.
“My enormous gratitude goes out to the many NHS Trusts and other organisations already providing free car parking and I urge other Trusts to do the same with our backing.”
The National Car Parking Group also confirmed it will provide NHS staff free parking at all 150 of their car parks in England.