Page last updated at 12:26 GMT, Monday, 30 March 2009 13:26 UK

Image row prompts CCTV switch-off

Wireless IP camera
The wireless mobile cameras were introduced in 2006

A £15m wireless digital CCTV network is set to be to shut down in a row over image quality, a council has said.

Westminster Council's 100 parking enforcement cameras have been in use since 2006 and can clearly read vehicles' registration plates.

But guidelines from the Department for Transport (DfT) said the cameras can no longer be used to issue tickets as the image resolution is too low.

The council said the "ludicrous" ruling will put the mobile cameras out of use.

Westminster Council said it is the only local authority in the UK to use digital cameras for parking enforcement and the resolution specified by the DfT does not take the new technology into consideration.

The council will stop using the cameras from midnight on Tuesday as the DfT's restrictions come into effect from 1 April.

The Traffic Management Act 2004 states that images need to be 720x576 pixels - but the digital cameras broadcast images which are 704x576 pixels.

The DfT said it has not prevented the use of the cameras for any other purposes but added that the cameras need to be upgraded for parking enforcement.

Upgrading would cost £2.5m, the council said.

'Draconian view'

Councillor Danny Chalkley, cabinet member for environment and transport, said: "The DfT's position is ludicrous and stuck in the dark ages.

"This draconian view puts into jeopardy the £15m already spent on Westminster's CCTV network and could result in millions of pounds of taxpayers' money being needed to replace the current cameras, all because of a tiny difference in image resolution on the TV screen."

A DfT spokesperson refused to comment on the case but said: "To ensure local authorities have a fair and transparent way of detecting unlawful drivers any recording device must meet minimum requirements and be certified as an 'approved device'."

The cameras are currently in the West End, Belgravia, Trafalgar Square, Knightsbridge, Oxford Street and on central London's main bridges.

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