Parking cameras installed at Neats Court shopping park, Queenborough, Sheppey
Customers at a shopping complex with free parking arrive to see CCTV cameras monitoring cars.
Until now, all parking at Neats Court in Queenborough, Sheppey, was unlimited.
It is understood the decision is part of a blitz aimed at reducing shoplifting at the site and also hitting out at the noisy car gatherings that use the location on Saturday nights.
Motorists were first alerted to the changes by a social media post from Snap Fitness which had a terminal installed at its reception desk.
Regional manager Natasha Sedge said: “We still don’t know the details of what free parking customers will be entitled to, but as we are open 24 hours a day, we needed a way for our members to register their cars so they won’t be fined.”
She added: “I think the cameras might be for stopping motoring encounters on Saturday nights, although we’ve never had any issues with them. That’s not a problem.”
Some business owners have been told shoppers may be entitled to limited free parking, as is the case in Sheerness. Tesco is giving shoppers three free hours and Aldi is giving customers 90 minutes before the fines come into effect.
Ms Sedge said: “As long as they don’t introduce pay and display it will be fine. It doesn’t seem to be a profit-making scheme but a check to stop people abusing the car park.
“A lot of our members come from Sittingbourne because of the free parking.”
B&M security guard Ski Pearn greeted the cameras, which are mounted on poles at the parking lot entrances.
He said: “I think it’s a good idea. It should help stop shoplifting. It wasn’t until Saturday that two men tried to steal two Henry Hoovers from the store.
“If I know the time of the offence, the police can request photos of vehicles leaving the site at that time and find them.”
He added: “We’ve never had a problem with car meetups, although they start arriving around 5pm instead of 8pm when most shops close. It would make more sense to hold the meetups on Sunday afternoon after 4 p.m.
Cancer Research UK and Sports Direct staff said they were aware of the cameras but had not been given any information on when they would go live or what restrictions would be imposed.
HomePlus Furniture staff were unaware of the cameras until we told them.
Millie Rowlinson, service manager at Iceland, said: “We have been told about it but I am concerned about staff parking. I would like to know where staff can park all day.”
The retail park formerly owned by LXB Retail was acquired from Lightstone by M7 in December. The site is now run by a company called Tandem.
Lightstone still owns the food court across the road which includes the Five Bridges restaurant, Creams, Starbucks, Franzos and Burger King. This area and the parking lot around Morrisons are not covered by the new cameras.
Cllr Cameron Beart, who represents Halfway and Queenborough on Swale Council, said: “I have heard of the new cameras. I understand the new owners are renting the car park from Euro Car Parks. I am awaiting confirmation of the terms and conditions .”
A shopper, who did not want to be named, said: ‘It won’t affect me. I’m not long in getting my groceries.’
M7 spokesman Richard Sunderland said: “Following our acquisition, we were approached by the Community Support Officer to discuss issues caused by large car encounters in the area with up to 50 vehicles causing antisocial behavior.
“This followed verbal discussions with tenants who shared the same concerns. Discussions with Euro Car Parks and Kent Police also took place and it was agreed to install automatic number plate recognition cameras as an initial measure and to assist the police in identifying offenders.”
Buyers can use parking free of charge for up to three hours during normal trading hours of 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Monday through Saturday and 6 a.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday with a 10-minute grace period. Motorists are not allowed to return within two hours. Those who break the rules will be fined £100 (£60 if paid within 14 days).
Snap Fitness customers won’t be affected as the gym is open 24 hours a day – but drivers must check in cars at a special terminal inside the building.