ESSEX County Council has made at least £1.2 million in less than a year from motorists driving through the Duke Street bus gate – sparking accusations it is using the restriction as a lucrative money spinner.

A total of 37,066 Penalty Charge Notices have been issued in the ten months between the special number plate recognition camera being switched on in August 2017 up to the end of May 2018.

If a similar number of people continue to contravene the street regulation, the council may expect to raise at least £1.5 million in a year – assuming that every single one of those motorists pay in time to qualify for a 50 per cent discount on the £60 fine.

Campaigners against a planned bus gate in Baddow say the council is using the bus gate as a money-raising scheme and predict a similar traffic restriction in Baddow Road could raise even more.

Baddow resident Dave Oldershaw said: “We have always said from the very start that it was being used as a money spinner.

“We proved very early on that the Baddow bus gate plan was nothing to do with pollution – without a shadow of doubt it is all to do with making money.

“I don’t know what else it could be.

“It’s not to alleviate traffic. Where is the traffic going to go? It’s still got to be dissipated. Yet again it’s a money making scheme.

“That’s all the county council are interested in. If they were interested in anything else, they’d do that flyover and then there wouldn’t be a need for a bus gate.”

About 8,000 people were caught in the Duke Street bus gate in the first four weeks of the enforcement cameras going up at the start of August.

Since the start of enforcement the number of people illegally using the bus gate has reduced to less than a quarter of the number before the council began to issue Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs).

The council has also since altered signage by making previously existing traffic regulation signs more visible, after an adjudicator said no contravention occurred due to inadequate signage.

An Essex County Council spokesperson said: “It has been illegal to drive through the bus gate at Duke Street in Chelmsford since 2011.

“Before turning on enforcement cameras, we increased signage at all junctions leading to the bus gate, sent more than 3,000 warning notices and painted the words “BUS GATE” in five-foot high letters on the road at both entrances to help make drivers aware of the restrictions.

“Following the advice of the TPT, we have further increased the level of signing in recent months to aid driver awareness of the restriction.

“The aim here has always been to minimise the number of incidents over time through a combination of raised awareness and enforcement.”