Big Brother could be watching you as spy car comes to London Colney

St Albans district council trialled this vehicle fitted with cameras in London Colney

St Albans district council trialled this vehicle fitted with cameras in London Colney - Credit: Photo supplied

CONTROVERSIAL council CCTV “spy cars” that automatically issue parking fines could soon be lurking along St Albans streets.

London Colney villager Jonathan Statt was recently appalled to see a Big Brother-style vehicle fitted out with numerous cameras, including a tall periscope one, being driven along the High Street.

Now St Albans district council (SADC) has admitted that it has been trialling a mobile CCTV camera car and is considering whether to introduce it to the area as a parking enforcement tool.

Jonathan, of Napsbury Park, said he spotted the strange car parked on double yellow lines, patrolling the village’s high street.

He said he assumed the car, which seemed to have cameras pointed in all directions, was a high-tech version of traffic wardens, adding, “it looks ridiculous”.

Jonathan said: “Its sole mission is to make some money for the council. Shopkeepers were getting irate about it and people feel worked up, especially as the car itself was parked on double yellow lines.

“The car goes around, takes pictures and moves on. People may not even know the photo has been taken.”

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Jonathan said the parking enforcement car had not been welcomed as truck drivers often parked along London Colney’s High Street to buy their lunch and the shopping parade was quite short.

He said: “The car was attracting angry stares from people as there is limited parking.”

Jonathan added: “The car has a huge periscope on its roof and looks quite menacing. I’m not sure it is appropriate for a small village.

“And I don’t agree that there seems to be a council resolution to punish people rather than find a solution to help local businesses and attract visitors.”

Mike Lovelady, head of legal services at SADC, admitted that the authority had recently conducted a two-week-long trial of the vehicle fitted with cameras to gauge whether technology could help tackle parking problems faster than a warden patrolling on foot.

It followed complaints from residents and councillors in some outlying parts of the district, inluding London Colney, about dangerous and inconsiderate parking.

He said: “It is sometimes difficult to deploy parking enforcement officers to manage problem parking in these areas effectively and to respond to problems swiftly when they arise.”

The car was lent to the council at no cost, and the fortnight-long trial was focused on testing the technological capability of the vehicle.

He said that no parking tickets were issued as a result of using the car’s camera system.

Mr Lovelady added: “We parked the car in a known parking problem hot spot to test the monitoring equipment. Enforcement vehicles are exempt from general parking restrictions provided they are parked safely as was the case in this situation.

“No decision has been made about using such vehicles for enforcement purposes.”

He said that once the results of the trial were assessed, a report would be given to council for further consideration.

The high-tech mobile camera cars hit the headlines last year when a tribunal ruled that such devices should only be used where traffic enforcement was difficult, sensitive or enforcement by wardens was not practical.

James Richardson, a Traffic Penalty Tribunal adjudicator, ruled that the cars should not automatically issue parking fines if a traffic warden could carry out checks on foot.