YORK'S controversial "spy van" has issued hundreds of fines to drivers on city centre sidestreets and rural roads, far from the school drop-off areas it was introduced to patrol.
The CCTV safety van has been operating in York since March, and new figures obtained under the Freedom of Information Act reveal the streets where drivers have most often been fined.
In its first seven weeks, 473 penalty charge notices (PCNs) were issued. Almost half of those fines - 222- remain unpaid and 65 drivers have appealed their fines.
The data shows that most fines have been issued in a handful streets far from school gate problem zones, leading to accusations that the car is being cynically used to bring in revenue for the council.
On one street alone, Garden Place off Stonebow, 148 fines have been issued, including 14 in a single day.
The van has visited the same stretch of road on 24 out of the 33 days it has operated.
The use of the van has angered drivers such as Michael Amesbury, who was fined twice on Garden Place in two days, and it has drawn criticism from political opponents.
Conservative leader Cllr Chris Steward said: "Disappointingly it seems the camera car is being used to raise revenue rather than safety. When residents were told about the car it was supposed to improve safety around schools and many would welcome that use; it will knock confidence to see it being used so often nowhere near schools.
"Cynics will think the camera car’s fines are a replacement for the lack of Lendal Bridge fines so that Labour can still fund its vanity projects!"
Mr Amesbury said he and his wife pulled over in the side street while one visited the bank nearby, but now the couple say they avoid the city centre as the risk of being fined.
When the council launched the CCTV van it said it was to focus on irresponsible parking outside schools, but the four most-commonly fined streets were Garden Place, Walmgate, Clifford Street and Murton Lane, none of which is on a busy school run. Between them those streets generated 259 PCNs. Of the top 10, only three - Minster Yard, Blossom Street and Acomb road - have schools nearby.
The council has previously argued that using the camera car only during school drop-off and pick-up hours would be a waste of its resources, and said the camera car has the support of police and headteachers.
Now senior officials have defended the council's position, saying the original arguments still apply.
Sally Burns, council director of communities and neighbourhoods, said: “The Road Safety Camera Car was introduced following calls from head teachers over concerns of illegally and potentially dangerous parking in and around schools and is also supported by North Yorkshire Police. As is normal practice nationally, the camera car is deployed to cover other ‘no waiting / stopping restrictions areas’.
"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."
TOP TEN STREETS FOR FINES IN MARCH AND APRIL
1 - Garden Place - 148
2 - Walmgate - 48
3 - Clifford Street - 38
4 - Murton Lane - 25
5 - Monks Cross Link Road - 24
6= - The Stonebow - 18
6= - Minster Yard - 18
8 - Blossom Street - 17
9 - Acomb Road - 16
10 - Pavement - 15