Penalty was 'ridiculous and excessive'

Shops, pubs and other businesses often offer free parking for customers, but even that is no safeguard against parking fines. Katie Duckworth, of Costessey, near Norwich, discovered that the hard way after receiving an £85 fine for parking at The Trowel and Hammer pub in St Stephen's Road, Norwich.

Shops, pubs and other businesses often offer free parking for customers, but even that is no safeguard against parking fines.

Katie Duckworth, of Costessey, near Norwich, discovered that the hard way after receiving an £85 fine for parking at The Trowel and Hammer pub in St Stephen's Road, Norwich.

The pub offers all-day parking for £4. Miss Duckworth, 19, a beauty consultant, regularly uses it while she is at work in the nearby Chapelfield mall.

But on Monday last week she had intended to meet some friends in the pub, and parked in the car park, which is supposed to be free to customers. Her friends were not there, but she found them in the nearby Coachmakers' Arms.

Miss Duckworth estimates she was gone between 10 and 15 minutes before returning to The Trowel and Hammer, where she asked a member of staff if she could leave her car in the car park overnight.

He said she could not, and that she would have to pay a penalty. When she went outside she found a “penalty notice” attached to her car.

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It ordered her to pay £85, reduced to £60 if she paid within 14 days. If payment was not received by a further deadline, the charge would increase to £135.

If she wanted to appeal, she would have to enclose a cheque for the full amount, which would only be refunded if the appeal was successful.

Miss Duckworth's father Alec Duckworth, 47, also of Costessey, said the fine was unfair. While he accepted his daughter had left the pub premises briefly, he said she had still been a customer.

He visited the pub on Tuesday to ask for the fine to be revoked, but without success. He is now considering whether or not to pay.

“Other people who think they can use the car park whilst at the pub should be warned of the possibility of such a ridiculous and excessive fine,” said Mr Duckworth, a surveyor.

“No ticket is issued so anybody could be fined at any time, whether they have paid or not. My advice to anyone planning to park there is 'Don't!'”

When an EDP reporter visited the pub, he saw some signs in the car park reading “customers only”, while others read “permit holders only”. There was no sign displaying the £4 daily parking charge.

A man, understood to be the manager or a licensee, refused to comment, saying only: “Contact the company”.

Both the warning notices and penalty notice attached to Miss Duckworth's car bore the name of Private Car Parking Enforcement Agency, a trading name for Parkshield.com.

Our reporter contacted the company by telephone. A spokesman said he could not comment, and that any questions would have to be put in writing.

Parkshield.com is a member of the British Parking Association (BPA). The association's chief executive Keith Banbury said he had no knowledge of this company's operations, but that any complaints against it would be investigated.

He said the parking industry was overwhelmingly professional and reputable. “You and I can protect our property, provided we do it reasonably and sensibly: a lot of people will park anywhere they can to avoid paying,” he said.

“What has happened is there was a big furore about rogue clampers who were operating without any form of control. Those rogues who were clamping have now moved into ticketing.

“We had a professional industry doing it quite well but others have moved in and certain issues have crept in. That's hopefully about to change.”

In July last year, transport minister Stephen Ladyman announced a series of new checks and safeguards relating to the release of information by the DVLA, expected to come into force later this year.

Meanwhile, the BPA has pledged to make closer checks on its own procedures to ensure members are complying with the rules.