Investigation: Should private car parks be regulated in Norfolk?

Protected parking warning signs on private property in Norwich warning of parking charges if restrictions are not adhered too. Picture by SIMON FINLAY. Protected parking warning signs on private property in Norwich warning of parking charges if restrictions are not adhered too. Picture by SIMON FINLAY.

Saturday, August 16, 2014
1:10 PM

Increasingly private-land is being used as makeshift car parks. But are the laws slanted too much towards the companies monitoring them than the general public? Rosa McMahon reports.

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No more clamping

Wheel-clampers were outlawed from clamping vehicles on private land in 2012.

Unpaid ticket charges can be claimed from the keeper of the vehicle and the driver.

And although people call them fines, parking tickets issued on private land are actually called ‘Parking Charge Notices’.

They are different to ‘Penalty Charge Notices’ issued by councils or the police on public land.

Like, tax, petrol prices and the offside law, the issue of parking fines is a contentious one – with many saying they are simply a nice little earner for private companies.

In fact being slapped with a ticket has become such a vexed issue that latest figures show around 600 Brits a week are appealing after being fined while on privately-owned land.

According to the official watchdog, Parking on Private Land Appeals Service (POPLA), that number has increased 12-fold in just two years.

In Norwich, the subject has recently come to the fore after hundreds of drivers were caught at Whitlingham Country Park by private firm Parking Eye, hired to catch people on CCTV who do not park for the time they have paid for.

How to appeal

• Do not pay the parking charge if you want to appeal.

• You can only appeal to POPLA after you have made your case to the operator who issued the parking charge notice and that operator has rejected these and issued a POPLA appeal form.

• You will be given a verification code by the operator with the rejection. You will need the verification code to appeal online.

• If you want to appeal, you must do so with 28 days of date of the operator’s notice of rejection.

• But you can only appeal to POPLA if:

a) The car was not parked where stated on the parking charge notice, if you believe you were still within the time you paid for, if the voucher was clearly displayed or the signs were poor.

b)If you are being asked to pay the wrong amount for the parking charge or that the charge has already been paid.

c) If the vehicle was stolen

• You can appeal by visiting www.popla.org.uk/appeal.htm

In just one year Parking Eye made £90,000 from the site near Trowse – just £10,000 less than the beauty spot themselves made from parking tickets, covering its vital maintenance and upkeep.

The issues raised around Whitlingham, mirrored those voiced elsewhere in the country.

They include parking fines being too high, poor signage warning of restrictions and potential punishment and drivers being given small grace periods for going over time.

The government has recently announced a ban on councils using CCTV spy cars and other measures to make it fairer for drivers parking on publicly-owned land.

Landlord defends private parking company

The owner of the Trowel and Hammer Inn on St Stephens Road in Norwich defended his decision to use a private company to monitor his car park.

Ben Duraj, 37, has CCTV cameras on the land which catches people if they do not either use his pub or pay to park there for the day.

Mr Duraj charges £4 for all day parking at the central spot – or it is free for punters.

But after shoppers started abusing the parking space he decide it was time to act and brought in Norwich Traffic Control.

“We put the signs up to stop people parking and then going in to the city without paying,” he said.

“It’s my business, if you park somewhere you have to pay for it.

“It’s the same all over the city. You can’t get anything for free.”

But law around companies policing private areas remains minimal.

The AA’s head of roads policy Paul Watters wants regulation of private parking firms by an independent body, the government or local authorities.

He said it would stop firms “reaping in revenue to reward themselves”.

And Stefan Gurney, executive director of the Norwich Business Improvement District, has echoed that call, urging the government to bring in a code of conduct.

Stefan Gurney thinks there should be more regulation.Stefan Gurney thinks there should be more regulation.

“There should be a lead from a national and local level, and it should be a regulated process,” he said.

“That level of regulation would help to eradicated people who see it as a way of making money, rather than providing a service.”

Ministers have been criticised for not doing enough to clamp down on private parking firms, such as Private Eye, who use number plate recognition to identify drivers.

Communities Secretary Eric Pickles conceded the government would stand up to any “rogue practices”.

But Great Yarmouth MP and former local government and high streets minister Brandon Lewis rebuked calls for greater regulation.

Instead he insisted parking costs and fines must be made fair to encourage people to partake in community life.

“Over-zealous parking enforcement and stealth fines are unfair,” he said. “Treating visitors as cash cows is also bad for tourism.

“Private car park contracts should be negotiated with the interests of the community in mind and adhere to industry standards of ‘reasonable grace periods’ and signs that are clearly visible so people don’t fall foul of the rules.”

Many firms use CCTV to patrol car parks in supermarkets, pubs, shops and more.

Once they have captured number plates on CCTV, the firms can access motorists’ details on the DVLA database to post out fines.

But Mr Watters, from the AA, said that needs to change: “The Government must introduce a system whereby, when your address is given to a parking company by DVLA, the DVLA tells you this has happened and what your legal rights are.

“This will at least give vehicle owners a chance to be warned before the £100 demand arrives.”

POPLA’s annual report says there has been a “sudden growth” in tickets being issued by private companies – with a staggering 23,500 appeals assessed in the last across the country.

Companies operating in Norfolk, many of them national, include Car Park Solutions, who had 41 appeals made against them, Norfolk Parking Enforcement, with 59, Norwich Traffic Control, 45, RCP Parking, seven, and Parking Eye with 6,058 appeals.

What do you think? Have you been hit by an unfair parking fine? Email rosa.mcmahon@archant.co.uk

9 comments

  • samphirelover, Sorry but that's really poor advice that you've offered. Private companies CAN and DO chase drivers regularly through the courts. These companies are able to obtain names and addresses of registered keepers from the DVLA (for a small fee of course) that then enables litigation to commence via the civil courts. NEVER ignore such a parking ticket but instead follow all avenues to challenge the ticket as its likely that to fail to do so will almost certainly end up with a court siding against you. Next stop - bailiffs.....

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Tootyfrooty

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

  • Anybody who is CCTV'd can, by law demand a copy of the footage, as the company has nothing to hide and is using the footage of you and your car to fine you. The legislation for car parks is totally skewed towards the companies and whitlingham car park shyould be shut for ripping people off. Car parking is big business and it distorts Norwich inner city business. There should be one single charge for every parking space, public or private, those who offer free car parking should occur a new community parking charge, that equals a Norfolk wide parking fee. And no new out of town or other development public or private should get planning without charging the Norfolk Parking rate. Sorted.

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    ingo wagenknecht

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

  • You do not have to pay Parking Charge Notices. Just ignore them, they can't do anything about it.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    samphirelover

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

  • These parking signs are mis-leading, I was given a ticket taken by a camera which I could not see, when I received the letter, the photo of my car was timed wrong, I was elsewhere and had proof. I appealed and they withdrew it. I would suggest everyone should appeal, I don't think they backed by law. It is easy money for them, they are rip off merchants

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    Derek McDonald

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

  • I have been issued many PCN's over the years from parking on private land. For not displaying tickets or staying longer then you should. People should make a stand and not pay these tickets they aren't worth the paper they are written on. I quite often stay over the stated time at riverside where currys is. I have stack of letters from the parking company asking me to please pay my charge for staying over the stated time. These parking companies have never taken anyone to court nor sent anyone round to collect monies owed. It's a requestinvite to pay a charge not a fine. Just don't pay it!!!! Below are a few sites with more in detail information about these pesky parking companies. http:www.moneysavingexpert.comreclaimprivate-parking-tickets http:www.penaltychargenotice.co.ukprivate-land-enforcementparking-charge-notices

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    Hit_it_hard

    Sunday, August 17, 2014

  • It is not just the private companies who are a problem. Holt Country Park is 'policed' by West Norfolk Council and the only car park signs there are a small green and yellow sign at low level (easily obscured by outgoing cars) and the ticket machine round the corner of a wooden building. This cannot be seen from much of the car park. Totally fails to meet the recommended guidelines!!!! Obviously set up to rip off motorists.

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    andy

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

  • It's very simple really, when one of these private companies are brought in by the local authority the price structure should be agreed before the contract it signed. I assume the local authority have failed in their role in this, they seem quite good at failing and exposing us all to situations which cost us money.

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    parkeg1

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

  • If we take the Broads Authority & the car-parking at the redundant gravel pits whimsically called Whitlingham Broad then regulation is desperately required. Parking Eye, grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr.

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    peter waller

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

  • Ok fair enough you shouldn't park illegally but these parking fines, from these private companies, are not worth the paper they are written on! If you receive them, simply bin them.. Yes they may threaten you with courts blah blah! But that's all they will do, Or if you are feeling a little guilty, send them what you should have paid and nothing more.

    Add your comment | Report this comment

    patrick

    Saturday, August 16, 2014

The views expressed in the above comments do not necessarily reflect the views of this site

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