New storm over use of parking camera-car in York
YORK'S transport bosses have come under fresh fire, over the use of their controversial camera-car.
The CCTV car, launched to tackle irresponsible parking outside schools, is also being used to crack down on other motorists nowhere near schools, it has emerged.
Traders have also accused the car's driver of "lying in wait" and claim fines have been issued for offences lasting as little as a minute.
The council defended the broader use of the car but a privacy campaign group called it "cynical surveillance" and council opposition leader Chris Steward said it risked needlessly antagonising people.
When it launched the CCTV car in February, the council said it was to catch parents and guardians parking dangerously near schools following concerns from head teachers, and made no mention of enforcement not linked to the school run.
But traders in Murton Lane contacted The Press last week to say visitors to their businesses had been fined for stopping for only a minute.
A taxi driver picking up a fare, a wagon turning right across traffic and a lorry driver waiting for a safe moment to reverse into a yard have all been fined £35 each on Murton Lane in recent weeks, they claimed.
L Clancey and Sons scrap metal merchants said one of its lorries was fined because the driver pulled on the verge for less than five minutes, waiting for a safe moment to reverse into the yard.
Richard Clancey from the firm, which is a mile and a half from the nearest primary school, said: "The lorry would have been there for about five minutes, and the driver was in the cab. The driver of the CCTV van didn't stop or check anything, just drove past and took the photograph."
On another occasion, a HGV arriving at neighbouring Thompson's grain mill was fined as it waited for less than a minute to turn right into the yard, it is claimed.
Transport manager Paul Hewiston said: "We couldn't believe it. If the CCTV van driver had looked at the yard he would have seen the lorry couldn't get in at that moment so had to wait."
He said trackers fitted to the lorry show only the lorry was stationary for less than a minute.
A third business, Craven's garage, said customers had been fined for parking on the verge outside, and a taxi driver was fined while waiting to pick up a customer who had dropped his own car at the garage.
The three traders said they have seen the CCTV van pass up and down their road as many as three times a day, and once spotted it parked nearby with the camera pointed directly at the businesses, seemingly "lying in wait".
Gus Hosein of campaign group Privacy International said: “These CCTV spy vans are deployed under the guise of protecting children but instead are used to generate income. It is one of the most cynical types of surveillance we’ve seen to date. Its purpose is not to make people safer; it is to pad the council’s coffers.”
Chris Steward, leader of the council's Conservative opposition, said: “When the CCTV van was brought in it was for schools to improve safety for children being dropped off and those who walk to school. If it is now being used for other things, not least after the farce of Lendal Bridge and Coppergate, it’s going to antagonise people needlessly.
“The van should be used for schools, nothing more, nothing less, but here it looks like it’s being used to raise revenues and you get a situation where it breeds contempt for the rules.”
A City of York Council officer said the car was launched following calls from head teachers and was supported by police, and said using it to cover other ‘no waiting / stopping restrictions areas’ was in line with normal practice nationally.
She said: "To deploy a camera car for only two-hours of the day, during pick-up and drop-off school times only, would not be feasible, therefore the car patrols other times of the day to ensure restrictions are enforced.
"The camera car is not used to discourage driving or to drive away customers from businesses in the targeted areas, but to enforce legal and safe parking. If drivers adhere to these restrictions they will not risk being fined.”
She said the broader use of the car was covered by a "frequently asked questions" section on its website.
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