THE operators of a controversial car park which was ordered to shut down appear to be fighting back.

Private car park company Smart Parking has drawn anger from motorists over the way it has been handing out fines at Oastler Road car park in Saltaire.

The furore prompted Bradford Council to declare the site unlawful and serve a notice ordering the car park to close by November 24.

But in an apparent act of defiance against this notice, the company has now lodged a retrospective planning application for its parking signs, in a move one councillor branded “hilarious”.

Councillor Kevin Warnes (Green, Shipley) took to Facebook to urge people to object to the application en-masse.

He said: “I have objected to this - and would urge every single living, breathing person in Shipley to do the same.”

In his objection, he said: “Smart Parking are not allowed by law to operate a car park on this land; and therefore there is absolutely no justification for this entirely unnecessary signage.

"I must add as well that Smart Parking have refused to refund everyone who has been wrongfully charged and penalised for using this car park since the ANPR cameras began operating. They have also been reported to their professional body, the British Parking Association, who are reviewing their illegal operation of this car park.”

So far about a dozen residents have also sent in objections.

A member of staff at Bradford Council’s highways department has also refused to back the application, saying in a letter: “The Council’s records indicate Oastler Road and the car park spaces as being highway, with the vast majority being adopted highway.

“The proposed signage is to advertise private pay and display parking on public highway, which would be unlawful.”

Smart Parking did not respond to requests by the Telegraph & Argus for a comment.

Shipley MP Philip Davies hopes to broker a deal between the company and Bradford Council to ensure that the land can remain as a car park.

Mr Davies, who has complained in Parliament about Smart Parking, said the car park was a much-needed facility and said he hoped to find a way to keep it open.

He said he would be content for Smart Parking to be given a fresh chance at running the car park, on the condition that it refunds all customers fined so far and that it operates “a much more sensible regime going forward”.

He said: “I want a car park that works for local businesses and also works for customers, so the rules are not just legally enforceable but are what an average person would consider to be fair and reasonable.”

About two weeks ago, Mr Davies travelled to Smart Parking’s head office in Birmingham to meet with the company bosses.

He said they had had a “frank exchange of views about what had been going on”.

Mr Davies yesterday met Bradford Council chief executive Kersten England to make his case for finding a compromise.

He said: “We discussed where we wanted to get to, and I think the chief executive was very sympathetic.

“So I think we can hopefully move things forward and get a suitable solution.”

A Bradford Council spokesman said: “We have posted formal notices on the Oastler Road car park requiring the removal of the ticket machines, signs and cameras, giving the company, Smart Parking, 28 days to comply.

“The notice was formally served on 27 October meaning that all items must be removed by 24 November. If there is a failure to comply the Council will step in as the highway authority and remove the items.

“The company should cease issuing fines and begin repayments.

“We are keen to see this issue resolved ahead of the deadline and are seeking a meeting with them to discuss a way forward.”

A decision on the retrospective planning application is due by December 12.