A “shambolic” park- ing scheme has come under renewed criticism after pay and display machines were activated before the restrictions were officially imposed.

Council bosses have since apologised after it meant drivers have been paying to park when they didn’t have to.

This comes as the latest in a series of blunders relating to the parking restrictions in the Preston Park zone E area in Brighton.

Earlier this month on May 1, council workers unveiled signs introducing the scheme only to be forced to return and quickly cover them up again after confused residents pointed out the pay and display machines hadn’t been installed.

The mistake meant the restrictions were not intro- duced until May 19.

But it has now been revealed when some of the new machines were finally delivered, they were uncovered and activated days before the May 19 roll out, meaning some drivers had been paying to park before they had to.

Residents who live on the affected streets have reported seeing people using the pay and display machines in Tivoli Crescent North and from outside the Post Office in Matlock Road.

Neighbours have also been left fuming after it was revealed they would have to pay £120 for a parking permit for the rest of the year for the five days a week restriction, which is the same cost as some seven-day schemes in other parts of the city.

Nigel Goddard, who has launched an official com- plaint with the council over the debacle, said: “Zone E is currently the only area in Brighton to have these charges unfairly imposed upon the residents. “The residents are not being treated equally.

“This is yet another exam- ple of how shambolic this scheme is.”

A council spokesman has said drivers were legally responsible for purchasing a ticket from May 1. He said: “The Preston Park North parking scheme officially started on May 1 and parking charges were legally payable from then.

“The pay and display machines were unfortu- nately not ready for the start date so drivers were able to use the bays for free until they were set up.

“Because resident permit holders in the area were not able to fully benefit from the scheme until it was com- pletely operational and enforced on May 19 they have been given an additional month’s parking on their permits.”

The spokesman added: “We apologise for any confusion but many machines were not ready for May 1 as expected.”