POLICE have launched a crackdown on rogue car parks near Manchester Airport after dozens of incidents were reported at two locations in just six months.

Cheshire Police today hosted Operation Cicero as part of a multi-agency clampdown to tackle rogue meet and greet parking firms.

So far this year, an increasing number of holidaymakers have been reporting incidents relating to car parks operating near Manchester Airport.

These include more than 55 incidents at the Lode Hill, in Styal, and Moss Lane car parks alone.

The issues have ranged from car thefts and criminal damage to motorists returning home to find their cars have been driven hundreds, even thousands, of miles while they have been on holiday. 

In one case recent case a customer returned to the UK to find their car bonnet had been stolen, while another customer returned from their two-month break to find their car had been driven more than 3,000 miles while they had been away.

Knutsford Guardian: Cars parked at Lode HillCars parked at Lode Hill

In April around 150 people returned home to find their car keys were missing and their vehicles were stuck in a boggy field in Styal.

Officers were able to swiftly resolve the matter and the cars were returned to their rightful owners.

Inspector Andrew Baker, beat manager at Macclesfield Local Policing Unit, said: “Holidays are supposed to be the highlight of the family calendar, so the last thing anyone wants is to return home and find their car has been damaged, or even worse is missing.

“Many people using these car parks make their bookings through online comparison sites, believing they are booking professional, secure airport parking which are linked to the airport.

Knutsford Guardian: Officers head out from Wilmslow police stationOfficers head out from Wilmslow police station

“In reality, many of these car parks are simply muddy fields on land bordering the runway and have no affiliation to the airport whatsoever.

“In some cases, we have even had reports of vehicles being left in residential streets in the local area.

“While many of these businesses are not illegal, some of the activity taking part on their sites is and some the services they are providing are questionable, hence today’s operation.

“By working together with our partners, we have all been able to use our specialist skills to identify any offences which are taking place and ensure that the appropriate action is taken.”

Knutsford Guardian: An officers' briefing at Moss LaneAn officers' briefing at Moss Lane

While not all the incidents are criminal matters, the reports are having a hugely detrimental impact on local residents and holidaymakers alike and place unnecessary pressure on local police officers.

To help address the problems, more than 50 people took place in an operation today which saw two multi-agency teams attended the Moss Lane and Lode Hill car parks.

The teams included officers from both Cheshire Police and Greater Manchester Police, along with immigration officers and staff from Trading Standards, the Environment Agency and Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs (HMRC).

The teams used their specialisms to identify any offences, while also sending a strong message to the businesses that they have the expertise to identify any wrongdoing and will prosecute where appropriate. 

Knutsford Guardian: Suspected cannabis farm equipment seized during the operationSuspected cannabis farm equipment seized during the operation

While searching one of the sites officers found a quantity of cannabis and two men, aged 47 and 40, were arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of class B drugs. 

Officers also discovered a range of equipment commonly used to produce cannabis. 

Inspector Baker added: “As well as taking enforcement action, today’s operation was about sending a strong message to these businesses that if they want to keep operating, they need to do so lawfully or leave. 

“It was also about educating holidaymakers – if you are going on holiday and looking to book a parking slot, do your research, choose a reputable company and always book through an official website and don’t just go for the cheapest option.

"Otherwise your car may be touring the UK while you are travelling the world.”

A Manchester Airport spokesperson added: “We are grateful to Cheshire Police and its partner agencies for the work they are doing to tackle this issue, and will continue to work with them to raise awareness of the risks posed by booking airport parking through these unscrupulous companies.

“In addition to our own official parking products, there are a number of reliable and reputable third-party providers located near the airport and we would always urge passengers to do their research before handing over their keys. 

“We encourage customers to use initiatives such as Park Mark and the government-backed Buy with Confidence scheme to find a provider that has undergone a series of detailed checks and is committed to trading fairly.”