A CAR park enforcement camera which has led to dozens of drivers facing big penalty charges may have to be removed after district planners refused to give it permission.
The pole-mounted automatic number plate recognition camera was installed two years ago by Britannia Parking at Old Milton Green Parade car park in New Milton, which it manages on behalf of the London-based landlord.
Vehicles are limited to just 20 minutes parking there, and numerous motorists have fallen foul of the regulations – some threatened with hundreds of pounds in costs when they have refused to pay – although many of the penalty notices have been successfully challenged.
After the retrospective planning application was submitted before Christmas, 176 people objected to it with just one person – the owner of the laundrette at the parade – in favour.
This week the objectors were jubilant when it was announced it had been refused by New Forest District Council. The company could now face enforcement action to have it removed.
A spokesman for the NFDC said: “Following the refusal, we have opened a new enforcement case and will be carrying out a full investigation before deciding on a way forward.”
Reacting to the news on social media, one resident said it was an “excellent” result, adding: “I will never park there again or use the shops in the parade after being threatened with court action unjustifiably when using the laundrette.”
Another commented: “Does anyone know why it was allowed there for the previous two years?”
In its ruling, NFDC said the Britannia Parking pole and camera have “an adverse visual impact on the character and appearance of the Old Milton Green Conversation Area by reason of its utilitarian and incongruous appearance in a prominent position in the street scene and adds harmfully to the visual clutter along this boundary”.
It also said the equipment “gives rise to very limited public benefits and the degree of harm is therefore of significant weight”.
Agent Savills, acting for Britannia, had attempted to placate the planners by offering last week to make amendments to the camera and pole but was told it was out of time.
In an email to the planning department, a representative of Savills stated: “Just to be clear, the proposal is seeking to regularise a relatively short pole within the forecourt of a three-storey 1960s commercial building that no one has noticed has been there for over two years.”
They claimed that during a site meeting in April 2019 the Britannia Parking camera and pole was “not flagged as being an issue at that stage”.
They also stated that during the meeting: “We had no sense at all at that time that he [the planning officer] even noticed the pole, and certainly not that he found it intrusive/harmful.
“As per our submission, this is a very minor feature which preserves the essential characteristics of the conservation area.
“The inclusion of the car park in the conservation area is more about the setting of the adjacent green than the site itself, and in that context the pole has no presence or impact.”
In reply, a planning officer disputed Savill’s recollection of the meeting, saying: “We feel that the only possible option would be a camera mounted on the existing buildings rather than a free-standing structure. As this would be an entirely different proposal, I am afraid that I feel there is no reason to delay issuing the decision as discussed.”
Outlining their reasons for refusal, the planners noted the number of objections received, and referred to “the unacceptable visual appearance of the structure and the fact that it has already been erected”.
The decision notice added: “Concerns are expressed in relation to the time limit of 20 minutes being unreasonable, impact on the businesses in the parade as use of the car park is discouraged, not happy with the way fines are being issued, the camera is an invasion of privacy, the car park should be operated publicly and that parking congestion is being caused elsewhere.
“The camera and pole are prominently located on a main route through the conservation area, while there are other similar structures nearby (e.g. telegraph poles and street lights), this structure is particularly utilitarian in appearance as a result of the size/section of the pole, the anti-climb feature and the galvanised finish.
“This, in combination with the prominent location of the pole, make it an incongruous feature in the street scene which is detrimental to the character and appearance of the conservation area.”
A spokesman for Britannia Parking said: “We are aware of the planning decision about the ANPR and pole at Old Milton Green Parade.
“We will consider the council’s ruling and decide how to proceed in due course.”
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This article was amended on 14th February with comments from New Forest District Council.