A CONCERNED councillor claims businesses in Great Clacton are losing trade as shoppers try to avoid a “predatory” parking company.

Motorists were outraged after being fined for parking in Ravensdale car park, off North Road.

Although it is advertised as free for three hours, many residents have been handed £60 fines as the small print states that a registration number must be entered to validate the free parking.

The signs were branded “misleading” by users.

Operator Smart Parking said there was “no problem” with the signage, although the sign was later changed in a bid to make it clearer.

Tendring councillor Richard Everett has successfully appealed to independent appeals service Parking on Private Land Appeal (Popla) on behalf of a number of residents.

Mr Everett, speaking at a meeting of Tendring Council, said: “Businesses in Great Clacton are losing customers and trade as a result of the unreasonable actions of private companies operating car parks in the area.

“The effects on residents and customers from further afield is that they are being ticketed for trumped-up parking charges.

“Local businesses are suffering with trade decreasing as a result of less people choosing to shop in Great Clacton, blaming the parking charges and approach of the operating companies.

“The motorists involved in this unfortunate situation are predominantly vulnerable and elderly.

“The businesses are telling me the situation is threatening their very viability because customers are now choosing not to shop in Great Clacton any more as a result of this predatory action by rogue parking companies.”

Zoe Fairley, Tendring Council’s investment and growth boss, said the council is aware of the issue.

She added: “The economic sustainability of local businesses, together with the right of our residents and visitors, are of the very highest priority.

“This is an operation which is on private land and the council has no direct role in the matter and is unable to regulate directly against the actions of the operator.

“It is clear the car park operation is having an adverse impact on users and likely on businesses.

“This does imply there is a fundamental issue with the operation.”

She said council officers have asked the car park operators to reconsider a previous decision to refuse parking appeals on the ground that it “appears to be misleading” and she said the council has written to the British Parking Association (BPA) about the issue.

Smart Parking previously said: “We are members of the BPA and follow its guidelines strictly.”