Foreign drivers who ignore parking tickets are costing Lancashire thousands of pounds a month.
And because many vehicle owners can’t be traced abroad, it is claimed they could also be getting away with a fortune in speeding fines and bus lane penalties.
County Hall has had to tear up 468 parking tickets issued to cars with overseas plates in the past year.
The total amount written off by the authority was more than £28,000, on top of the parking fees which went unpaid.
Some vehicles have accumulated multiple tickets – one on Swedish plates in Preston’s Winckley Square was booked six times a week for several weeks, say locals.
“That one has now gone, but Austrian cars are currently picking up multiple tickets in this neighbourhood,” said one city centre resident who asked not to be named.
“It’s ridiculous. They are just ignoring the fines and it seems there is nothing the authorities can do about it.”
At present, cars from overseas can be driven in the UK for six months before they need to be registered with the DVLA.
In the absence of a European-wide database, it means their owners are untraceable and effectively have a free pass to park where they like.
The Winckley Square resident said foreign cars parking in metered bays, residents’ spaces or disabled bays have been a problem for some time.
“It’s been bad in this area for 18 months to two years,” he said.
“We think the people who are parking their vehicles here and collecting tickets are professional people in the UK working for local companies.
“They either work in this part of the city centre and just park where they want all day, or they are actually living in apartments here and leave their cars while they go to work outside the city.
“They know they can’t be traced, so they don’t seem to care how many tickets they get on their windscreens.
“I know LCC are responsible for parking enforcement, but they are just stuck with this because it is unenforceable.
“It’s really an issue that central government needs to address.
“We’ve seen cars get five tickets a week.
“The owners mustn’t be bothered and the poor wardens keep sticking tickets on, presumably knowing they’re probably wasting their time.
“I can walk round this neighbourhood any day of the week and come across a car with foreign plates with a ticket on it. It’s such a common sight now.”
Lancashire County Council, which is responsible for on-street parking enforcement, said its wardens will still continue to issue penalty charge notices (PCNs) to vehicles with foreign plates, even though in many cases it could turn out to be a futile exercise.
Peter Bell, the authority’s regulation and enforcement manager, said: “There is no arrangement in place between the UK and other countries to exchange drivers’ details so UK authorities can’t serve notice for motoring offences if a penalty goes unpaid. Fortunately this is not a big problem in Lancashire compared with bigger cities where there are more foreign vehicles. However, we issue penalties to any vehicle which contravenes parking regulations. Foreign vehicles must be registered with the DVLA after being in the country for six months. And there are circumstances when a vehicle may be allowed to use a foreign number plate for longer, with their details being held by the DVLA.
“We continue to issue PCNs to foreign vehicles as some do write in to appeal and some do pay.
“The police will investigate if there is reason to believe a foreign vehicle should have been registered, and we will continue to work with them and other agencies to try and minimise their impact.”
Repeated attempts by the Post to find out how many speeding tickets issued to foreign registered vehicles have had to be scrapped in the county over the past 12 months proved unsuccessful.
Lancashire Police were unavailable for comment.