Motorists caught on CCTV parking illegally in Rushmoor have paid almost £260,000 in fines to the council in little more than a year.
Rushmoor Borough Council approved the use of more than 20 CCTV cameras to assist with parking enforcement in 2011 and, after the cameras were approved by the Department for Transport, they were employed to catch those spotted parking in restricted areas.
A report by campaign group Big Brother Watch shows that this resulted in £259,549.35 being generated between then and last March.
The group, which argues against policies that threaten privacy and civil liberties, claims the practice is unnecessary and wrong, but the council has claimed the CCTV was only brought in following public ‘frustration’ over inconsiderate parking by some motorists.
Nick de Bois MP, who wrote the report’s foreword, said: “I welcome this research by Big Brother Watch, which highlights that many hard-pressed drivers are unfairly being hit with arbitrary fines.
“CCTV should only ever be used in exceptional circumstances, and therefore I agree with the Government that local authority use of CCTV for parking enforcement should be banned.
“Councils should start looking at where they waste money rather than milking easy targets like drivers.”
Parking fines data for last year obtained by the News & Mail showed that the camera in Cross Street, Aldershot, which lies between Victoria Road and Union Street, is the most lucrative, with just over 1,000 fixed penalty notices issued there using CCTV.
More than 14,000 tickets were issued in Rushmoor last year, 22% of which were based on CCTV footage.
Of the 431 local authorities that responded to Big Brother Watch’s request, Rushmoor was among 70 to have used CCTV to capture traffic offences.
The group also criticised the use of CCTV cars by 58 councils. Rushmoor approved the use of these in areas around schools last November following complaints by parents, residents and the police.
Peter Amies, Rushmoor’s head of community, said that, legally, money generated from CCTV-issued parking fines in the borough belonged to Hampshire County Council, but was allowed to be kept by Rushmoor only to cover costs such as civil enforcement officers and ticket machines.
A surplus may be made for the first time this year, and this will be reinvested into highways infrastructure.
Mr Amies said the decision to use CCTV was made after ‘great pressure’ from taxi and bus drivers and disabled people who were frustrated at motorists illegally parking in restricted areas and fleeing before a fine could be issued.
He said: “We do use a number of fixed cameras in our town centres to address safety issues and to deter drivers from parking in restricted areas, which can cause congestion and hold ups for other road users.
“We particularly monitor certain junctions, bus stops, disabled bays and taxi ranks. The cameras help us to take action against drivers who knowingly abuse restrictions and who remain close to their vehicle so they can drive away if approached by a civil enforcement officer.”