PARKING cameras installed illegally are set to be given planning permission despite thousands claiming to have been fined unfairly.

Basildon Council’s planning officers are recommending the plans by Smart Parking Ltd are approved to allow the controversial parking company to continue using automatic cameras to monitor the Westgate shopping centre car park in Basildon.

The council’s planning committee will consider the plans today.

The Echo reported in December that the cameras, which have been responsible for thousands of contentious fines, had been operating since the summer without planning permission.

Laindon resident and ex-Labour councillor Pat Rackley said: “I don’t know why the company didn’t do this before.

“We have received fines and may go to the meeting.

“I think the council has no choice but to approve the plans.”

Planning officers said the issuing of “unfair” parking fines was not a material planning consideration.

MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock Stephen Metcalfe raised concerns in Parliament and many shoppers boycotted the area amid claims of unfair practices.

Shoppers complained they received fines, despite buying tickets, claimed automatic machines did not work, signs were confusing and the company was deliberately trying to generate income by catching people out.

These claims were rejected by Smart Parking and the British Parking Association subsequently cleared the practices.

The BPA launched its investigation after protestors took to the car park twice, claiming that disabled and elderly users were particularly disadvantaged.

Complaints in Parliament complained of “sharp practices” being employed.

Taxi drivers claimed to have received fines for simply picking up or dropping off shoppers at particular businesses, which are only accessible via the car park.

However the company was cleared, despite the cameras being installed without permission.