Masked protesters pledge to target 'insidious spy car'
A BAND of masked motorcyclists are poised to descend on Tunbridge Wells to spy on the council's new CCTV car.
The campaign group, which includes a taxi driver, a lawyer, a plumber and a retired salesman, are opposed to the Smart car set to be unleashed by Tunbridge Wells Borough Council on our town's streets this summer.
Town Hall chiefs agreed to splash out on the Smart car with a rooftop-mounted CCTV camera, following a behind-closed-doors meeting on Thursday.
The cars, which have proved controversial when introduced in other areas, are aimed at detecting motoring offences. They are due to come to Tunbridge Wells by July.
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CCTV cars record video footage of offences such as parking on double yellow lines or driving in prohibited areas, and offenders are sent a fine in the post.
Sporting high visibility jackets and plastic masks like those in the film V For Vendetta, the No To Mob group argues that councils employ the vehicle as a "cash cow" and not for public safety reasons .
The riders say they are doing their bit for David Cameron's "big society" by pointing out where the cameras are hiding.
Linda Shaw, a member of the No To Mob group, said: "The cars aren't for public safety – it's another revenue stream for the council.
"They are insidious and have a damaging effect – sucking the life out of towns."
The No To Mob organise regular meet ups or "schunts" throughout the South- East where CCTV cars roam the streets.
They have already forced two councils into refunding a combined total of more than £2 million through tribunals.
On Tuesday, Hertfordshire County Council had to pay out £1.26m for wrongly issued fines after it was ruled the signage in a bus lane in Hemel Hempstead was unclear and illegal. The camera had snapped an estimated 35,000 people since going live last August.
And in November last year, Richmond's council in south-west London reimbursed an estimated £1 million after CCTV camera cars were behind more than 18,500 wrongly-issued parking fines. Its four Smart cars were then taken off the road.
"We're not against parking enforcement, we're just against revenue driven enforcement," added Mrs Shaw, from Rochester.
"They are a waste of money – we will be on them from the first day."
Tunbridge Wells Borough Council used the car for a five-day trial in December, during which it did not hand out fines.
In one six-minute period, 101 contraventions were spotted around the Five Ways bus lane.
The borough council's head of economic development David Candlin said the car would boost the Tunbridge Wells is Traffic Aware campaign.
He said: "The CCTV car raises the profile of our safety campaign and it is a real deterrent to those motorists who risk the safety of others by choosing to flout traffic regulations.
"The expectation is that the safety camera car will lead to a change in motorists' behaviour. Anything which reduces the number of people injured on roads in the borough must be welcomed."