A MAJOR car parking firm is being investigated for setting up a new park and ride service to Southend Airport without planning permission.

Euro Car Parks, which runs a number of sites nationwide, opened its long-term parking facility, in Aviation Way, Southend, about three weeks ago.

The operator launched the service to much fanfare saying cutomers would get a meet and greet service and be able to leave their cars in a secure 24-hour manned parking facility within the grounds of the Athenaeum, a five-star private members health club.

However, it has come to light neither Euro Car Parks or the Athenaeum has permission to operate the service.

John Whitlock, Rochford District Council’s planning manager, said: “Euro Car Parks does not have planning permission here and we have an enforcement investigation in hand.”

David Gleason, senior operations manager at Euro Car Parks, said: “I am unable to comment, but please feel free to contact our client, Nigel Bayliss, the owner of the Athenaeum Club.”

However, Mr Bayliss did not wish to comment. Southend Airport said it did not endorse any off airport operators for parking.

David Lister, operations director, said: “There are no off airport operators endorsed or approved by us, as we feel the airport can offer the most competitive deals for its passengers, therefore we would strongly urge passengers to compare any off site rates with what we can offer.”

Prior to the planning permission issue, Euro Car Parks said it had partnered up with Andrew’s Taxis in Rochford to offer the park and ride service.