Spy camera set to control parking

The leader of a Yorkshire council has defended plans to use a mobile camera to photograph parents parking illegally outside schools.

Kirklees Council, which covers the Huddersfield and Dewsbury areas, is to spend 100,000 on a camera fitted to the roof of a council vehicle to capture offences using Automatic Number Plate Recognition technology.

Vehicle registrations will be recorded, checked against a database and then fine notices will be sent out to the registered keeper of the vehicle, along with photographic evidence.

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The equipment and software will cost 73,000, with another 27,000 paying for a member of staff to process evidence and issue penalty charge notices.

Once set up, the council will have to pay an annual software licence fee of 4,000.

The council leader, Labour councillor Mehboob Khan, says the intention is not to generate cash but to reduce unsafe and illegal parking.

He said there was unmet demand from residents and shopkeepers for parking enforcement, particularly around schools and shops.

"This means more areas can be covered. Those who complain about indiscriminate parking can now have better services."

He denied it would be a good cash generator.

"We don't see this as something that will generate thousands of pounds of profit. Rather, it will be a deterrent."

Coun Khan said Kirklees was a large area which meant it was difficult for wardens to police illegal parking.

A council report says the enforcement scheme could come in as early as April 1 this year.

The authority says it receives many requests from schools, parents, bus companies, taxi operators, cyclists and residents for enforcement of parking laws.

"Evidence confirms that illegal parking is most prevalent outside and around most schools although parking in bus stop clearways, cycle lanes, taxi ranks and on loading restrictions is also abused," says the report.

Conventional enforcement does not appear to be having a lasting impact and council officers are often preventing from issuing a ticket by a motorist driving off, according to the authority.

There are also an increasing number of locations where enforcement officers are subjected to threats and intimidating behaviour, particularly in the evenings and at weekends.

The council report, to be discussed by members of the Cabinet committee today, says that it is not possible to accurately forecast the income that will be generated through mobile camera parking enforcement.

"National and local experience indicates that when enforcement commences after a period of time general compliance with traffic regulation orders will improve."

The council believes that the mobile camera will bring in at least 100,000 in the first 12 months and so cover the set-up costs.

Other Kirklees councillors have backed the plans.

Councillor Peter McBride said: "I support the introduction of mobile parking enforcement and the benefits it will bring towards community safety and parking compliance.

"This initiative will also complement the council's investments into bus improvements made over the past few years."

Motoring organisations have given the plans a cautious welcome, but are concerned that it may become an easy way to generate extra cash.

A spokesman for the Association of British Drivers said: "We can't condone people parking illegally and if they want to enforce, we don't have a problem.

"The temptation may be to grab as much money as they can and motorists are an easy target."