Thursday, 23 September 2021

Council ‘calls in’ plan for hospital cameras

Council ‘calls in’ plan for hospital cameras

COUNCILLORS will debate in public whether to grant retrospective planning permission for the enforcement cameras in the car park at Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley.

An application by Smart Parking has been “called in”, meaning it will decided by members of South Oxfordshire District Council’s planning committee rather than planning officers.

It follows a request by Henley town and district councillor Stefan Gawrysiak who wants the plans for the unlawful cameras to be refused following dozens of complaints by patients about unfair fines issued by the enforcement company.

Henley Town Council’s planning committee will make a recommendation on the application at its meeting on Tuesday before the district council makes its decision next month.

However, the three Henley district councillors — Cllr Gawrysiak, Lorraine Hillier and Joan Bland — will not be able to take part in the final vote as the issue affects their wards but will instead be allowed to speak on behalf of the town.

Last month, the Henley Standard revealed that the three cameras have been operating without planning permission since they were installed more than a year ago. Smart Parking uses the automatic numberplate recognition cameras to log drivers entering and leaving the site.

But it has faced calls to be sacked for issuing unfair fines at the hospital with many patients being sent letters threatening them with court action if they refuse to pay.

The company has already lost its contract for the neighbouring GP surgeries following dozens of similar complaints.

Cllr Gawrysiak said: “I will be opposing the application because I think there should be a smarter system that NHS Property Services can come up with.

“I will have to find the planning reasons but I think it is in the community’s interest.

“This has been going on for more than a year and there’s chaos. There’s got to be a better way of doing it.

“I’d be interested to know whether, because they haven’t got planning permission, Smart will refund all of the fines they have imposed on people through their unlawful operation.”

Councillor Hillier, who chairs the council, said: “I’m glad it has been called in for us to debate.

“I’m in favour of Smart being given their marching orders.

“You just need to look at what’s happened here and in other towns where Smart have operated. It’s hard to have any faith in them going forward and it makes everyone so nervous.

“Any sort of parking ought to be a bit more sensitive in that area.”

Cllr Hillier added: “The difficulty is that these are emotional issues and not anything to do with planning.

“But I do think questions need to be asked about why they are operating without planning permission.

“They are not a new company, they are operating all over the country.

“They need to be asked about why they didn’t apply — they must have known the laws.”

Councillor Bland said: “There are probably good enough reasons for them not to get permission.

“I visit the care home almost daily but I never take my car. People are terrified of going there and it’s putting them off going.

The application was submitted by Smart Parking in June and also requests permission for 20 poles at the site, two of which are used for cameras and 18 for signs detailing the parking rules.

A separate application has been made for a total of 28 new signs.

No enforcement action can be taken at the site unless the application is refused.

• Have you been unfairly fined for parking at Townlands? Call Henley Standard reporter Jamie Presland on (01491) 419444 or email him at jpresland@henley

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