Fraud squads to patrol Emirates to catch blackmarket Arsenal fans

FRAUD teams will be patrolling Emirates Stadium on match days to catch out people who abuse Islington’s newly-relaxed parking rules – as fears mount over the rise of a blackmarket in permits.

Council officers will prowl the streets surrounding Arsenal’s Ashburton Grove ground and slap parking tickets on fans misusing visitor vouchers so they can drive their cars to games.

Residents in Highbury and Holloway are worried they will be crowded out of parking spaces in their own streets after Islington Council lifted its cap on visitor parking permits on January 1.

They fear hordes of opportunists could take advantage of the change by buying the vouchers in bulk – at �2.20 each for a three hour permit – and selling them on for �10 or �15 each.

The council has also come under fire for the so-called “roamer” scheme, which will mean those with resident permits can park anywhere in the borough between 11am and 3pm from February 28.

It is feared this will create more problems for residents who live in areas where parking spaces are already under pressure, such as near The Whittington Hospital, in Magdala Avenue, Archway.

Councillor Arthur Graves, transport spokesman for the Liberal Democrat opposition group at Islington Council, said: “Labour has set up a system that could lead to a blackmarket in visitor vouchers. There is nothing to stop vouchers being sold on for a profit and turning Islington into a giant car park.”

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“The ‘roamer’ policy will have a disastrous effect in some parts of the borough and will just be a free-for-all.”

Tony Miller, 60, a writer who lives in Highbury, said: “Allowing people to buy unlimited vouchers could undermine the whole of the Arsenal match day parking policy. There is plenty of evidence that voucher trading is going on already, with a huge increase of cars on match days – and it’s only going to get worse.”

Up to now, most residents could purchase a maximum of 10 all-day permits a year for visiting friends and family, and a limited number of half-hour and three-hour vouchers.

Many found this too restrictive – but the council has been inundated with complaints that it has now gone too far the other way.

Martin Jones, chairman of the Highbury Fields Association, said: “I share the fears of a blackmarket. It’s claimed that if somebody buys hundreds of vouchers, it will be obvious. But if somebody buys 10 or 20 and then chooses to sell them on, how will they stop it? This has not been properly thought through.”

The council has sought to ease residnets’ worries with the announcement that it will have officers targeting abusers. It has insisted that permits will be closely monitored, and will all be traceable to the original buyer.

There are also plans to eventually move to an electronic permit system, with individuals being required to register their visitor’s number plates online.

Councillor Paul Smith, Islington Council’s executive member for environment, said: “We’ll be monitoring the issuing and use of the vouchers, which includes checking on match days to see if there’s been a significant rise in the number of visitor vouchers being used.”

Green Party campaigner Caroline Russell said: “The new roaming and unlimited parking permit rules will both encourage more short trips. This will mean more congestion, more emissions, and the air quality will go down.”

Councillor Smith added: “The resident roamer scheme will allow residents to save hundreds of pounds every year when they visit their friends and relatives in other parts of the borough.”