MOTORISTS parking on grass verges could be handed hefty bills as a council team is trained to spot damage done by drivers.

Parking on pavements and grass verges is set to be banned from April 1 under the council’s new parking strategy for the borough.

The council has previously warned a team of enforcement officers could hit motorists with fines for driving over footpaths and grass verges But deputy leader Ron Woodley said anyone seen causing any damage to verges outside homes will be notified repair costs will be recouped by the council.

He said: “This is going to go ahead. We are hiring and training people at the moment.

“We spend £1million on pavements every year and then have to spend £2million repairing damage from people parking on verges and pavements. This also applies to builders who do damage during construction work and it applies to households who have skips on pavements.

“If damage is spotted the homeowner will get a letter from our legal department outlining the damage caused and that we will be recouping it from households. If we see damage done people will be held responsible. The Government has backed that and we will be enforcing it.”

The council hopes the funding boost will save the millions on repairs which have shot up from £500,000 a year five years ago to £2million.

This is the equivalent of losing 3 per cent in council tax every year with many of the problems caused by vehicles, such as skip lorries and diggers.

Councillors have backed the move, saying they are ‘inundated’ with complaints from residents. The move is part of the council’s £50m highways budget, investing in roads, pavements and car parks over five years.

The plans also include annual parking passes available for residents in the borough and its surrounding areas. A monthly £8.50 fee will allow three hours of parking car parks and streets in three zones around the borough.

Mr Woodley added that the parking permits aim to provide affordable parking to those living in Southend and neighbouring areas.