Council criticised after abandoned van torched near Weymouth

Council criticised after abandoned van torched near Weymouth

Published by Maria Greenwood at 11:43am 24th September 2019. (Updated at 8:46am 25th September 2019)

Dorset Council has been accused of letting residents down over an abandoned van on the Ridgeway cycle path – which was later torched.

Local councillor Nick Ireland has asked for an explanation why the issue was passed from one department to another and still nothing happened.  He said:

"We have completely failed our residents on this one."

"I trust this mess will get cleared immediately and those with the power to do so will address our inaction/inability to make a difference with some urgency.

"This was completely avoidable and we did nothing despite being notified and chased by both residents and myself."

torched van ridgeway cycle path 1

Councillor Ireland also says the lack of action while the van was intact, apart from a broken headlight, near the Came Down golf course, means council taxpayers will now have to pay the cost of clearing the cyclepath and making it safe.

Efforts to tackle the vehicle involved both the council’s parking services team and ‘Place’ team as well as the police who said it was not their responsibility and passed the issue back to the council.

'How was it reported?'

The abandoned car was first raised with Dorset Council by a member of the public, a cyclist, on September 10th.

The following day he was told that they were not prepared to deal with it as the vehicle was taxed and suggested calling the police: “The police in no uncertain terms advised me it was not their responsibility. They told me it was the council’s problem. Passing the buck springs to mind,” said the man, who has asked not to be named.

“The vehicle is in the same place as a previous vehicle about a year ago which was eventually burnt out. I suspect this vehicle will end up the same way causing environmental damage.”

'Here's Dorset Council say'

The council say that the jurisdiction for abandoned vehicles is with the parking team and, because the van was taxed and has an mot, until the end of November, they have no legal mandate to have the vehicle removed.  

The only way they would have acted is if the police or the fire service deemed it as a potential problem or hazard.

The council says its parking team have taken steps to notify the current registered keeper, who is not local, and re-checked with the police to see if there are any stolen markers on the vehicle.

A Dorset Council spokesmam said:

"Once the Parking Services Team were notified of the vehicle we did the necessary legal checks to determine whether it met the criteria for being abandoned.

"The vehicle was taxed and insured so we had no legal mandate for it to be removed as the criteria had not been met, and the vehicle had not been reported as stolen to the Police.    

"We tried to contact the last registered keeper of the vehicle who was in the process of making his own arrangements to have the vehicle removed.   

"We kept the local councillor informed of what was happening, and liaised with the Police and Fire Service throughout the process.  

"The burnt out vehicle has now been removed.

"We will review our internal procedures to ensure that unnecessary delays do not occur in the future."

Caravan fire ridgeway cycle path
Burnt out caravan destroyed in a previous fire in the same area in 2017.

Cllr Ireland says this is not the first time that a vehicle has been abandoned and then burnt out in the same spot. 

He says on that occasion the Dorset Council and Dorset Waste Partnership both refused to address the situation and the burnt out chassis remained there for six months before eventually being taken away.

By Trevor Bevins, Local Democracy Reporter