A BASILDON car park that has had thousands of complaints made against it “is doing nothing wrong”, a watchdog has said.

The British Parking Association has ruled that Smart Parking’s Westgate Shopping Centre Car Park, in Roundacre, deal with all appeals of parking fines “with compassion” having been given “assurances” by the company.

The BPA launched its investigation following claims about unfair fines and faulty payment systems in Westgate, with protestors taking to the car park twice, claiming that disabled and elderly users had been charged fines despite paying for tickets.

There have also been numerous complaints by users that both the payment machines and the vehicle recognition system at the car park are faulty.

Despite these being reported, fines are still being issued according to a number of community leaders and shoppers.

The BPA’s decision has been strongly criticised by Stephen Metcalfe, MP for South Basildon and East Thurrock, who claimed the association had not taken into consideration all of the evidence provided by his constituents.

He said: “In a letter, the BPA state they are satisfied with ‘assurances’ given by Smart Parking UK during their investigation, including that they ‘deal with appeals from motorists with disabilities and the elderly with compassion’.

“The BPA investigated Westgate car park operators Smart Parking UK against their Code of Practice following my letter highlighting their opaque practices and inflexible attitude, which are causing unnecessary blight to Basildon shoppers.

“It was hoped this careful examination would end their unfair practices.”

Resident Carole Woods added: “This is an absolute disgrace. BPA had already reached this decision, then when Stephen Metcalfe got involved, BPA decided to investigate, and that was only to show Stephen they were on it.

“What a shambles!”

Kim Brown said: “The ANPR camera should face the actual car park and not be trained on the service road leading to it for a start.

“It’s pinging every single vehicle that uses that road but that doesn’t necessarily use the car park itself.”

Mr Metcalfe claimed the BPA did not wish to see his evidence, stating that it said it was “already aware” of it.

He added: “I, along with my neighbour John Baron MP, continue to call for an end to their practices which risks the reputation of Westgate shopping centre in Basildon.

“John Baron MP and I are due to meet the chief executive of Smart Parking UK soon.

“We are gathering evidence to challenge their operations and the BPA assertion that they operate in line with the BPA Code of Practice.”

A Smart Parking spokesman said: “We can confirm that the BPA recently attended the site at Westgate, following which they confirmed that they were content that the car park meets its stringent specifications.

“In addition, we can also confirm that since we changed the management mechanism at the car park, the number of people abusing the facility and parking without paying has declined significantly.”

A spokesman for the BPA declined to comment when contacted by the Echo, but stated the investigation was still open.