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Green number plates criticised over privacy issues

Green number plates criticised over privacy issues

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Surveillance Camera Commissioner has said that green plates would have limited benefit to society

Green number plates for electric cars could lead to a significant increase in the number of surveillance cameras on the UK’s roads, ministers have warned.

A government watchdog has said that proposed changes from the Department for Transport would have serious implications for the privacy of road users.

The Surveillance Camera Commissioner, a regulator of the use of CCTV, said that there was “limited evidence” that the new plates were required or that they would provide a benefit to society.

A consultation published last year said that the introduction of green plates would “enable people to spot and differentiate vehicles based on their environmental impact”.

The idea behind the green plates is that they would be given to drivers of zero-emission vehicles, and councils would be encouraged to give green plate holders incentives such as being able to drive in bus lanes or get free use of car parks.

Automatic number plate recognition (ANPR) would be the technology most likely used to detect the green plates, having already been deployed to monitor bus lanes, car parks and yellow box junctions.

Number plates for the cleanest vehicles would retain the usual black-on-yellow colour, but a green stripe would be located on the left side of the plate to mark them out. The full green plate originally proposed would be difficult to read by ANPR cameras, it has been said. 

In a formal response to the consultation, the Surveillance Camera Commissioner questioned: “Where is the evidence to prove that the extension to the ANPR function is justified?

“Limited evidence was presented that car drivers want green number plates or that it is for the benefit of society. Therefore, the legality was questioned.”

And though the Commissioner’s report supports Government policies to help drive down pollution and says that “clean air is fully recognised as being paramount”, it also stated that “whichever green number plate design is chosen, it should have no impact on the national ANPR service”.

The Department for Transport consultation period ended last month, and further plans expected to be announced later this year.

A DfT spokeswoman told The Times: “Green number plates are a positive and exciting way to raise awareness and support the uptake of electric vehicles on our roads. The public consultation has now closed and we are analysing responses.”