Tory councillor behind parking clampdown ‘living in fear’ after car set alight

A Tory councillor behind a parking clampdown has said she is living in fear after her car was set on fire in a suspected targeted attack.

Lesley Clarke, 73, has served on local councils for three decades and recently called for tougher restrictions on second-hand cars being parked “indiscriminately” in Buckinghamshire.

The row has spread to the street on which she lives, with cars being parked on double-yellow lines for months, prompting her to demand more parking wardens.

Since going public with her concerns, two cars on her driveway have been set alight in the past five months in arson attacks currently being investigated by the police, but no suspect has been found.

In both cases the cars were reduced to a charred shell – and Mrs Clarke fears worse is yet to come.

In the first incident in December last year, Mrs Clarke’s husband Marten, 76, awoke to find his car bonnet was alight using an accelerant on the couple’s driveway in High Wycombe.

Mrs Clarke's car bonnet was set ablaze at night and flames ripped through the vehicle
Mrs Clarke's car bonnet was set ablaze at night and flames ripped through the vehicle

He was able to alert the fire brigade quickly and the fire was contained, although the car was a write-off, leaving the couple out of pocket.

The same thing happened again last week, when Mrs Clarke’s car bonnet was set ablaze at night and flames ripped through the vehicle, meaning it is expected to be written off.

The couple accused Thames Valley Police of failing to treat the attacks seriously, claiming that the force failed to attend until the following morning on the first occasion, and arrived 40 minutes late on the second.

“Obviously I’m worried that it might happen again, it’s happened twice now in five months,” said Mrs Clarke.

“We were told that we would have a marker on our address for six months, and it’s only the fifth month when this happened.

“What happened to them not coming out on the first night? And they only came out on the second night because the fire authority control room insisted that a police vehicle actually attended the scene.”

Mrs Clarke, the former leader of High Wycombe district council which has now been unified into Tory-run Buckinghamshire Council, has served on local authorities since 1991 but the Conservative has in recent months turned her focus to parking issues.

She has previously encountered abuse on social media, including comments such as “we know where she lives, let’s go and get her”.

Mrs Clarke's car is expected to be written off
Mrs Clarke's car is expected to be written off

Mrs Clarke said: “Buckinghamshire Council are finding it very difficult to employ civil enforcement officers, our traffic wardens, and what we’re really experiencing is that we’ve got a lot of people who have these ‘we-buy-any-car’-type businesses and they don’t have anywhere to park, so they park them on the streets.

“You’ll find this happens all across the country and in most cases the cars don’t have an MOT; I have some on the street where we live that are parked on trade plates.

“We can have six or seven cars all from the same people parked bumper to bumper on a residential street, so they don’t care, and trying to get any persistence in getting them moved is very difficult.

“If I end up losing a third car because I’m talking about this, you know that’s what it is that I’m being targeted for.”

She added: “It’s a big, big problem and we want to take back our streets from this indiscriminate parking – people who are buying and selling second-hand cars.”

Her husband Mr Clarke, a former councillor, has stepped up security measures at their home such as more cameras and a fire escape ladder, but said he was now “fearful of a Molotov cocktail” or a “firebomb through the window”.

“The police do not appear to be taking it as seriously as we think they should,” he added.

A spokesman for Thames Valley Police said: “We are investigating an arson at an address in High Wycombe, at around 10.35pm on May 23.

“A man set alight a vehicle parked on a residential driveway using an accelerant before running away.”

The spokesman added: “The arson is believed to be linked to another arson at the same address on December 20 last year, where another vehicle was also set alight at around 11pm, but we are keeping an open mind.”

The police have asked those with information to call 101 quoting reference number 43240241541, contact Crimestoppers on 0800 555 11 or make a report via either website.

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