'Truly awful' Parking Eye camera in Morecambe Bay beauty spot must be axed

The Shore car park in Shore Road, Silverdale
-Credit: (Image: Google)


A planning application for car park camera equipment, erected without permission, which captures registration numbers of visitors’ cars at a protected Morecambe Bay beauty spot, has been rejected.

The retrospective application for a five metre-high pole with camera and light equipment at The Shore car park in Shore Road, Silverdale, was refused by lancaster-city-council>Lancaster City Council’s planning committee this week. Objections included the pole equipment’s appearance and parking fee arrangements at Silverdale, including a mobile phone app. And information on signs about Morecambe Bay tides is wrong, one objector said.

The coastal site is in the Arnside and Silverdale National Landscape, previously known as an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Created in the 1970s, it has special protection. Applicant Yaseen Laher of Parking Eye Ltd, based at Chorley, wanted retrospective permission for the pole and camera equipment. Plans stated the clients are Anthony Houghton and Christine Houghton.

But councillors on Lancaster’s planning committee heard various concerns about the visual impact and other worries. These included fears about a payment app, signs with allegedly have wrong Morecambe Bay tide information, access to a public right of way, and claims that visitors are parking elsewhere in Silverdale instead, creating problems for residents.

However, there has been some support for the camera pole plan. The camera has cut anti-social behaviour and is no more visually intrusive than signs or lamp posts, it was argued. Lancaster planning officers had recommended approval of the application but councillors had to decide.

Sarah Fishwick, an objector who is a former councillor, spoke against the application and another for signs at the site. She said: “People use this Silverdale site for all sorts of reasons. They go walking, fishing, cockling and riding. I cannot understand why planning officers do not consider it to have an adverse impact on the area and the AONB?”

She said a new law places a duty on public bodies to seek to conserve and enhance natural beauty. She added: “There is a Silverdale development plan which sets-out policies and it should be used robustly This application goes against all policies.”

Making a second objection about the parking signs application, she said: “This is the most protected site in the Morecambe Bay area. The signs are too high, people cannot read them and they include tide information which is wrong. There are so many issues. Information says it is private land but there is access across the bay. There is no information about the grace period before you get fined. No information about the other parts of land. You might go to Grange [over Sands] or other places? It’s insufficient.”

Nobody spoke on behalf of the applicant or clients. Planning officer Mark Jackson said developments in such areas should be sensitive and minimise any impact. Planning officers did not think the camera pole’s impact was high enough to be refused.

Car park charges

Conservative Coun Keith Budden said: “This has obviously cost quite a lot of money. Is there an intention to charge? I understand there is an honesty box?”

Mr Jackson replied: “This is a retrospective application. Charging is done and the camera system is there to manage it.”

Lib-Dem Coun Alan Greenwell said: “There was an honesty box but some say it did not work. Am I right in understanding a number of people have been fined for not using the app properly?”

He added: “This is outstandingly ugly. Truly awful. There are human beings and human existence around this. It has removed overnight noise because there’s a £100 fine if you stay overnight. Removal of noise is a positive.. However, this is a beautiful place and the camera gear is really threatening.

“The app is an integral part. If you are visiting for the first time, you’ve got to be confident with a phone and app installation to register and pay. People are instead parking on Shore Road including on pavements near residents. On balance, I’m strongly against this but I’m sympathetic to people who now have more-peaceful weekends.”

Labour’s Martin Gawith said: “Car parking on shores has been removed from many places because of potential pollution and floods. People used to park on the shore at Arnside and Bolton le Sands. Why is it still allowed at Silverdale?”

But Mr Jackson said: “We have not allowed it. The site has been used for parking for ten years or more, meaning it is deemed to be a lawful use. The camera pole relates to that deemed-for car park use.”

Labour Coun John Hanson said: “This is a money-making scam in my view. And we have got one in Morecambe. I got charged. I won’t be voting for it.”

Green Coun Paul Tynan said: “This camera pole is an eyesore. This is a place of natural beauty. This is an ugly, oppressive structure. They might as well put some barbed wire there too.”

Lib-Dem Coun Hart said: “I agree. There are other ways this could be done. If you go to Manchester Airport, the number plate cameras are at low levels.”

A council report stated that some comments have also been raised about the lawful use of the land as a car park and the laying of hardcore surface material there. The site has been subjected to an enforcement case regarding different elements.

It has been used as a car park as far back as 2000 so its current parking use is lawful because of the passage of time, councillors heard.

The Ramblers organisation had objected to the camera application and ground works, fearing parked vehicles may impact on the public bridleway. However planning officers say the route was not impacted. In a vote, councillors rejected the pole-mounted camera application and another application for signs.