Ilfracombe traffic warden hangs up his ticket machine

Pete Chapman retires after 26 years of helping to keep the town’s streets moving

A familiar face will be missing from the roads of Ilfracombe after hanging up his ticket machine following more than 20 years of helping to keep the town’s traffic flowing smoothly.

Traffic warden Pete Chapman - or civil parking enforcement officer as his role is known these days – retires on Friday following 26 years working as a warden in North Devon and most of it in Ilfracombe.

Despite what to some might appear to be a thankless job, enforcing parking on the streets of and in recent years, its car parks, Pete says he has enjoyed it all immensely and would do it again if he could, but he turns 62 on Monday and has decided to tale early retirement.

“I love the job still,” he said, “my role covers Ilfracombe, Woolacombe, Combe Martin and Lynton and for several years I was the only full time warden in Ilfracombe.

“I have always tried to use my discretion when it comes to parking and apply a bit of common sense – for example if a trader parks for 10 minutes to unload.”

For most of his career Pete was a police traffic warden, but in 2008 the powers of parking enforcement were passed on to Devon County Council and administered by the district councils through civil enforcement officers.

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He admits he enjoyed the policing role more than the current system: “When I started the job was much more about advising the motorist, now I feel it is more about booking cars,” he said.

“When you book a car, the problem is still there, move it on and the problem goes away. It was more about education and trying to keep the traffic moving, nowadays it’s more about revenue.”

The task of presenting an irate motorist with a ticket is never an easy one, but Pete said a calm and rational always proved the best solution.

“Before this job, as a driver I hated traffic wardens, but doing the job is so different and you see what they are there for.

“I enjoyed walking around, chatting to people and advising them. We were always there for the public as a police traffic warden, people would see you in uniform and come to you.”

In their former roles as police traffic wardens, Pete and his colleagues could expect a variety of situations beyond simply enforcing park laws.

If there was a traffic collision, they would be called in to deal with the scene and control traffic.

If two lifeboat maroon rockets went up to signal an incident, they would have to drop everything and head to Quay Road to clear it of traffic before the lifeboat could be hauled to the slipway.

In 2004 he was called to Boscastle to help with road closures following the devastating summer flood - and there was a similar incident closer to home when Ilfracombe’s sea defences were overwhelmed in the early 1990s by high tides and stormy seas.

“I was standing by Pip & Jim’s Church knee deep in water turning away all the people who were trying to drive down to the harbour area and have a look,” he said.

“When the tide dropped I was sent to block the Cheyne Beach entrance because the waves were pounding in so hard it was dangerous to get close to it.”

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