Motorists slam parking appeals as foodbank driver among latest caught
PUBLISHED: 12:15 16 July 2020 | UPDATED: 08:43 17 July 2020
Motorists have hit out at the parking charge appeals system after a foodbank driver was among the latest to have his appeal rejected.
Hundreds of motorists have been caught out at Earlham House and dozens are being taken to court by Norwich parking company NPE for not paying charges of up to £100.
A Facebook group for those going through court for parking at Earlham House has 120 members.
At a hearing at Norwich County Court in February, Judge Nicholas Reeves said he was dealing with a spate of cases. It comes ahead of a law change which will bring in stricter regulation of parking companies.
At the moment, the industry self regulates and has two different appeals systems.
But the appeals services used by NPE, called the Independent Appeals Service (IAS), is owned by the same company that represents parking companies, leading to accusations that it is not truly independent.
William Hurley is the owner and director of both the trade body for the industry, called the International Parking Community (IPC), and the appeals body, the IAS.
Retired Norwich police inspector Adam Hayes, who overturned his parking ticket against NPE in court in February, said this meant there was a conflict of interest.
He said: “The IAS is nothing but a kangaroo court in my personal experience and a waste of time submitting an appeal.
“They use anonymous adjudicators and there is no right of reply. They are simply not independent.”
Figures from the IAS show 5pc of cases heard by the appeals panel rule in favour of the motorist.
But Mr Hurley defended the set-up, saying a retired High Court judge oversaw the IAS and the appeals panel was staffed by independent solicitors.
He said so few rulings were in favour of the motorist because around one-fifth of cases were settled for drivers before going to the panel.
More than 70pc of cases are settled for the parking company.
Mr Hurley said: “We can keep costs down by administering the process through the IPC, but the decision making gets outsourced.
“We are trying to create a cost effective process that works and there is an ultimate safeguard of the county court.
“It is an unpopular thing that we do. I think the IAS is working well.”
Another motorist to lose his appeal to the IAS is Steve Pyne.
He was given a ticket on May 1 for pulling over at Earlham House, when he saw a friend who had been self-isolating.
Mr Pyne was delivering parcels for Norwich Foodbank and had two key worker stickers on his car’s dashboard.
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The 54-year-old, who lives on Earlham Road, said: “My friend had been alone for some weeks and I wanted to say hi and check she was OK. We chatted for six minutes.
“My explanation letter to NPE was dismissed and they are demanding £100 from me for ‘not parking in a marked bay’.”
NPE said Mr Pyne’s car had blocked the entrance to the car park for six minutes.
But the father-of-five said: “I wasn’t blocking anything at all. You could have got a bus past me. They seem to be able to make up any rules they like.”
He described the appeals process as “ridiculous”.
He said: “They claim to be completely independent, but how can they be when they are owned by the same people as the IPC?”
He also pointed out motorists are penalised for appealing as the fine is increased if they do not pay straight away.
Fran Dockerty, from Fleggburgh, also had her appeal rejected by the IAS during lockdown.
She pulled over at Earlham House for two minutes to drop off a friend and help her with a pram on January 30.
But NPE said she had parked in an area marked for deliveries only.
The 34-year old described the £100 charge as “excessive and unreasonable”.
She refused to pay and appealed to the IAS in March, but then did not hear anything back for three months.
But in June the IAS ruled against her stating they were “satisfied” the signage was clear. The mother-of-two said the appeals process was confusing.
NPE, meanwhile, defended the system. “They (the IAS) assess each appeal on the evidence that is provided to them from both the appellant and the operators,” a spokesman said.
•Reform is coming
The government pledged to reform the private parking industry more than two years ago when it supported a bill called the Parking (Code of Practice) Bill.
It is meant to bring in stricter regulation of parking companies, a single code of conduct and reform the appeals process.
The government said at the time: “A single code is intended to set a higher standard for practices across the sector, especially in the area of appeals against parking tickets.”
However, this has not yet gone out for public consultation or been presented to Parliament to pass in to law.
It is being supported by the RAC and Steve Gooding from the association said earlier this month that there should be a single appeals body and “independent scrutiny” of the private parking industry.
Figures from the RAC show a surge in the number of tickets issued by private parking firms to 8.4 million in 2019/20 - one every four seconds.
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