THIEVES used an angle grinder to cut off two pay and display machines at a busy Canvey car park – taking one with them and dumping the other on a nearby beach.
However, residents are not complaining as in the meantime they will be able to enjoy free parking at the Labworth car park, in Furtherwick Road, which is right by the seafront.
Both machines were stolen in the early hours of Tuesday and one was found on the beach the next morning.
The thieves tried to take out the cash, but the machines had been emptied after the weekend.
Barry Campagna, Canvey Island Independent Party representative for Canvey South, said that while residents could at first rejoice at the prospect of getting free parking, it is a matter which should not be taken lightly.
Mr Campagna said: “People at first might find this funny, but it is a crime and someone has stolen twomachines. It is also an act of vandalism.
“The council now needs to pay to replace both machines and it will now cost us taxpayers’ money to replace them.”
Car parking charges at the Labworth car park, which has spaces for 100 cars, work on a seasonal basis, with visitors having to pay 50p for an hour between April and September.
Mr Campagna added that while he believes the majority of car parks on the island should remain free, pay and display at Labworth was needed for visitors to the beach.
He said: “We have to have some parking charges to help maintain car parks. Car parks which are mainly used by Canvey residents, such as Oak Road, should be free.
“But we need charges when we have visitors coming to the beach, to help with the upkeep of car parks.
“In an ideal world there would be free parking, but I do feel there should be concessions for residents.”
A spokeswoman for the council has confirmed an order for machines has been placed, but has not revealed the cost.
For now, residents can enjoy free parking.
A spokesman for the council said: “Thieves had attempted to remove the cash but were unsuccessful in obtaining access to the vault containing the cash box.
“The thieves’ actions were pointless as the machines are emptied and very little money is left in them overnight.”
Police are investigating the theft. Call Essex Police on 101 or Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555111 with information.