URGENT talks are underway to try to prevent a parking free-for-all in Camberley and the surrounding area.

The crisis has arisen because of a decision by Surrey police to wash its hands of parking enforcement from April next year.

Surrey Heath Council is likely to take over the job, which would include the employment of traffic wardens.

But officials have warned that the decriminalised parking scheme would not be ready to go ahead until April 2005.

This would leave a year in which no-one would be responsible for enforcing parking restrictions in Surrey Heath.

The problem was highlighted in a report to this week's meeting of the borough's county council committee.

Ian Haller, principal transportation engineer, calls in the report for the local authority scheme to be introduced at the earliest opportunity.

The county council and the borough council would work in partnership to set up the scheme.

He warns that the absence of anyone to enforce parking restrictions after 2004 will "clearly lead to abuse" by motorists.

Talks are already being held with the police, he adds, to see if they can help solve the problem.

Mr Haller revealed this week that parking enforcement had been low on the police priority list since 1996.

He said traffic wardens were thin on the ground, and paid only occasional visits to the borough. Police sometimes issued parking tickets, while parking bay time limits were enforced by borough council staff.