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Westminster forced to switch off digital CCTV cameras

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Westminster City Council has written to Geoff Hoon to object to his department's decision to force it to switch off its 100 digital CCTV cameras, mostly used for parking enforcement.

The news is likely to be welcomed by motorcyclists who are this evening demonstrating against the Council's imposition of parking charges for motorbikes.

The cameras fall foul of the Traffic Management Act of 2004 which only came into force in 2008. The Council has only just been informed that its digital cameras do not meet technical standards.

The TMA rules state that cameras must operate at 720 x 576 pixels - Westminster Council's only work at 704 x 576. However, the council insists that images produced by the two standards are effectively the same because the analogue images include unused pixels - the black lines round the image.

The Council claims to operate the only fully digital network in the UK - most use analogue images which are then digitised.

It said an upgrade is impossible because it would require bespoke equipment which does not use broadcast standards which would cost up to £2.5m. The council said it had spoken to several camera manufacturers who confirmed that 704 x 576 is the industry standard.

A spokeswoman for Westminster said the decision would not help congestion in the city, but was unlikely to have much impact on policing of the G20 conference this week. Some reports had claimed the loss of the network would have resulted in "chaos" for the policing operation.®

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