Big brother sting in Sidmouth shops rogue drivers

BIG brother tactics to curb “out-of-control” abuse of a private town centre car park saw a shocking �5,000 of fines handed to oblivious drivers in just three days.

Sidmouth Conservative Club members felt they had no choice but to resort to a CCTV sting after their polite pleas to motorists were met with foul-mouthed responses and threats of violence.

But even they were stunned to see the hi-tech number plate recognition system, which went live on Monday, September 3, nab 47 rogue drivers by the night of Wednesday, Spetember 5.

Offenders have been slapped with �100 fines.

Unauthorised use of the club’s “front garden” in Radway got so bad there was often no room for members who fork out a substantial sum for permits.

“It is such a shame we have to do it, but we just can’t cope,” said Chris Gibbings, committee member responsible for the car park.

Club bosses have moved to warn townsfolk of the new measure as they don’t want to see anyone hit with a heavy fine. They handed over the control of the car park to Premier Park Ltd to tackle the long-standing problem. Signs were initially installed, but ignored.

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“Committee members politely asked people not to park where they weren’t allowed. A few became very rude, swore at us, and threatened us with physical violence,” said Mr Gibbings.

“Despite the occasional penalty notice, patrols and warnings, the unauthorised use increased, as did the verbal abuse.

“It was with regret the committee agreed to installing the (CCTV) system as the only way of dealing with totally out-of-control parking.”

The fully automatic operation relays vehicle registration numbers directly back to Premier Park Ltd, which then takes action against offenders.

Club staff use a touch-screen behind the premises’ bar to authorise vehicles that have paid the correct fee. Annual pass holders are automatically recognised.

Mr Gibbings added: “Warning signs were changed, the club issued friendly notices to nearby businesses so their customers would be aware of the new enforcement system.

“Despite all this, in the first three days of operation, 47 vehicles were found to have parked without permission and the drivers will receive �100 notices. It’s ridiculous.

“While we were aware of considerable unauthorised parking, these figures were somewhat of a shock. The club is friendly and always welcomes new members. It isn’t our intention to upset anyone, but we feel we had no alternative.”

Mr Gibbings said any correspondence received by the club would be forwarded to the parking company – and it was not able to intervene on behalf of non-members.