A PLAN is to be developed to get to grips with severely damaged grass verges, a long-standing issue which has exacerbated by the pandemic.

A Darlington Borough Council meeting heard verge parking had affected every ward for many years, but residents were becoming infuriated by deep ruts outside their homes, road users were facing extra hazards and underground utilities had been damaged.

A report to the authority’s local services scrutiny committee said rising verge parking was being fuelled by increasing vehicle ownership and bigger cars, reducing council budgets to resolve issues and an increasing tendency for works vehicles to be parked in the street.

Officers said parking near schools sometimes lead to inconsiderate and verge parking at certain times of the day, but could lead to tension between residents and drivers regarding access and damage to verges.

The report added: “Shopping patterns have changed significantly with more retailers offering delivery to the doorstep. This can add to the issue of verge damage either when parking on verges to deliver or driving down verges to get through streets that are constrained by parked cars.

“In some cases, this can apply to service vehicles such as emergency services, utility company vehicles and council vehicles that require access but are also constrained by parked vehicles.”

The report said tolerance levels to verge parking varied across the borough and that sometimes the council did not receive any complaints where there was significant damage and potential hazardous situations.

However, common issues reported to the authority include being unable to park close to their property, the visual impact of damage to verges, access to property being blocked and access along streets being blocked for emergency vehicles.

Options the council is set to consider to deter or prevent verge parking include placing plants, flower beds, planters, low level fencing, bollards or trees on the verges.

Dave Winstanley, the council’s assistant director for transport and capital projects, told members: “We all need a consistent way forward to deal with this in the community.”

Councillor Nick Wallis suggested the issue may be best tackled in some areas by allowing residents to “take more responsibility for their streets rather than have everything go through the town hall”. He said the authority’s resources were “extremely stretched” and questioned whether the council could manage some of the proposed solutions.