COUNCILLORS refused to allow planning permission for number plate recognition cameras for a hugely controversial car park.

Basildon Council’s planning committee has deferred a retrospective planning application for three automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) cameras and six pay and display machines in Westgate Car Park.

The decision was made at a meeting of the committee on Tuesday.

Despite not having planning permission, the ANPR cameras were installed in July last year by Smart Parking, who run the car park.

Since their installation the parking area has been widely criticised with numerous residents saying the machines were faulty and dozens of incorrect fines were handed out.

Basildon and Thurrock MP Stephen Metcalfe stated in December the cameras are giving out 2,000 fines a month, resulting in shoppers abandoning the area.

Residents have reported receiving a fine despite only driving in and out of the car park when there were no spaces available.

Independent councillor Kerry Smith said council officers realised on the night members would not approve the application so pulled it from the agenda.

He said: “The officers knew it would only get about two to three votes, everyone else was going to reject it. We were all incredibly concerned by the amount of residents that have complained.

“It’s absolutely the right thing to do, these problems are crushing Basildon town centre. I spoke to a man from Burnham the other day who said he will never shop here again because of the incorrect fines.”

The application will be brought back to committee in March after an operational management plan has been drawn up by Smart Parking and consulted on with residents.

Labour councillor Andrew Gordon said the decision has “put people’s faith back in democracy”.

He said: “It was a huge win for us and the people. I never felt comfortable with it, and it’s clear now the rest of the council does not either.

“This deferral will mean there will be a public consultation into the cameras and nothing will be put forward again until they have had their say.

“I’ve been a councillor for 11 years and I have never had so many people contact me about one thing before. They need to be held accountable.”

Carole Morris, chairman of the planning committee, said: “The committee heard the views of public speakers including councillors as well as the planning agents for the car park operators.

“The decision was made to defer the item pending a review of the operational management plan and public consultation.”