Monday, July 18, 2011

Mobile Camera Car Issues 813 Parking Tickets

A CONTROVERSIAL camera car has snared 813 motors parked illegally in just eight weeks – including four council vehicles.

Hartlepool Borough Council launched its £40,000 camera car in May in an effort to improve road safety.

It has already handed out fines which could net the authority £56,910.

The scheme has sparked a barrage of criticism from drivers who have been snapped dropping people off in bus stops, pulling onto double yellow lines to drop goods off in charity shops and even on mounted kerbs outside their own homes.

It has emerged that four of those tickets were sent to council workers who had parked local authority-branded vehicles illegally.

Since being launched on May 9, 848 penalty charge notices have been issued though that figure does not include any fines which have been issued in the last few days and have not yet been received by offenders.

Of that figure, 115 appeals were lodged with the council which resulted in 35 being cancelled.

The fines, which are fixed at £35 if paid early rising up to £70 after 21 days, could see the council rake in £56,910 in the first two months of the operation being launched.

Many irate motorists have claimed the vehicle is being used as a “cash-cow” at a time when the council is looking to save money at every opportunity, though bosses insist that is not the case and say the reduction in the number of tickets being issued proves drivers are not taking as many risks on the road.

Phil Hepburn, Hartlepool Council’s parking services manager, said: “We are aware of the criticism the camera car has had, and it was not entirely unexpected.

“We have had various road safety initiatives in the past which have not had the desired effect.

“Now, when a fine lands on the doormat, people know we are serious about this.

“We want to stop cars parking or pulling on zig-zag lines near schools, in loading bays, cycle lanes or bus stops.

“In the first six weeks the car was in use, we averaged around 120 tickets per week. A fortnight ago, that figure was down to 62, and then last week a total of 31 tickets were sent out.

“The system is ongoing, so many drivers who have been recorded will not yet have received their ticket. But all in all the drop in figures shows the car is making an impact and maybe drivers are not taking the risks they have done in the past.

“Drivers are changing their habits.”

He added: “Of the vehicles which have been fined, four of them are council vehicles so that shows we are not being selective with what we are taking pictures of.

“Those vehicles were dealt with in exactly the same way as any other. The vehicle would be traced back to whatever department it belonged to, the logs would show who the driver was, and that driver would be liable for the fine. This was not a case of the council fining the council, the driver would be liable.”

It comes after Callum Laws was snapped in a bus stop no longer in use opposite The Royal pub, in Church Street, Hartlepool, as he dropped off a pal on May 31 and was fined £70.

Gillian Hartill was was stunned when she received the £70 fixed penalty after she was snapped parked at a bus stop outside St Patrick’s shops in Owton Manor Lane, Hartlepool.

But at 9.41am on Thursday, June 9, when the ticket says she was nabbed, she claims she was frantically rushing her injured pet shar pei dog, Bailey, for treatment at Vets4Pets, in Belle Vue Way.

The Mail also reported how more than a dozen fines were dished out to residents parking outside their own homes in a stretch of Catcote Road, Hartlepool.

Among those fined were mum-of-four Michelle Clements, 44, and Harry James, 67, who had been given two tickets.

And Paul Robinson, 50, was also given a ticket after stopping at a bus stop in Wynyard Road, in Hartlepool, “for seconds”.

SINCE the camera car was launched, the Mail has been inundated with calls from motorists who have slammed the way the vehicle is operating.