OPINION: We should pay our way when parking cars at beaches or parks

An argument with a lady near Norwich Airport changed Nick's view on claiming a free space over paying for a car park 

An argument with a lady near Norwich Airport changed Nick's view on claiming a free space over paying for a car park - Credit: Getty Images/iStockphoto

Fifteen years ago this summer I drove to Norwich Airport from my then home in Suffolk, parked my car and spent a couple of days with a pal in Jersey.

When I returned I found a note carefully placed under my windscreen wipers.

I hadn't put my car in the airport's car park and paid somewhere in the region of £30, I'd parked on a road five minutes walk away from the terminal.

I knew what the note would say before I'd even taken it off the windscreen. As I started to read it, a lady emerged from the door of the house which I had chosen to leave my car in front of for less than 72 hours.

She was furious and had clearly been waiting for my return.


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"This is not a car park!" she yelled at me. "We've been waiting for you to come back!"

I blasted something back about it being a public road, screwed the note up and drove off. 

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Looking back at her in the rear view mirror, the V-sign she was making with her fingers looked, ironically, like she was gesturing V for Victory.

I hadn't done anything wrong and was well within my right to park there, but just because something is right, doesn't make it OK.

And ever since then I've been wary about parking in situations like this.

As a Norwich dweller, I expect to pay for parking, especially when I go to the coast. This is despite the fact I know streets in places like Cromer, Wells and Great Yarmouth where I can park for free.

The modicum of delight I take at parking on the road for nothing and enjoying a day on the coast is far outweighed by the thought at the back of mind that I'm depriving the resident of that road from parking outside their house.

And the thought of a note on my windscreen or a head poking out from behind twitching curtains upon my return is enough to deter me.

As the world opens up again on Monday and we're allowed to do a bit more,  I know one subject which will be rearing its head again in the letters pages of this paper - paying for parking.

It's the Easter holidays and as soon as the sun comes out you can bet that beaches and parks across Norfolk will be full of people heading there by car.

And so we come to one big issue which has developed over lockdown and is sure to come to a head as we get ready to enjoy the spring weather and spread our wings with the latest easing of regulations - should we pay to park in Norwich's parks?

I say we should pay our way, but it's not as simple as that.

I've been in Eaton Park and seen the chaos, especially on a Sunday afternoon in the summer when the car park is full, cars still pile in, people start to park in the middle at the North Park Avenue end and then someone in a large car tries to reverse out and, well, gets stuck.

Two years ago I found myself acting as a guide to help someone get their car out. It took 10 minutes for them to realise the only way out would be to either damage both cars, or wait for the other owner to come back.

I've been to Eaton Park too with my family on a busy day, seen the park full and done what many other people do, and will obviously do more if a parking charge comes in.

I've driven to a nearby road with my metaphorical tail between my legs and dumped my car on the verge of a road and crossed my fingers that I don't come back and find a sheet of A4 folded in half on the windscreen or that someone has keyed an offensive message on the side.

Paying to park in car parks would take all that worry away, but in the case of Eaton Park, you'd clearly need wardens or marshals policing the operation - charging to pay in car parks shouldn't mean that a side effect is that people who live near the park are punished by having their roads clogged up by day trippers.

Eaton Park car park

The car park at Eaton Park is often packed in the middle of summers with cars having to either park outside designated spaces or on neighbouring roads - Credit: Archant

Going back to my original argument with the lady near Norwich Airport - it is one of those great British debates isn't it? We think that the space outside of our houses is somehow ours when it clearly isn't.

I live just to the east of the city, a couple of roads from where the parking permit restrictions end. Parking on my road is a free-for-all, something I am very much against, although I am powerless to do anything about.

Powerless to stop football fans parking there on a normal Saturday and walking to Carrow Road, powerless to stop people working in Norwich using it as a free car park and powerless to know that if I return from a day out on a Saturday when I come back I will probably be unable to park on my road, let alone near my house.

It annoys me that people expect to gain the same benefits as I do by choosing to live where I live, without either paying for it and at the same time, taking away another parking space in my road.

So maybe if we all just thought a bit more about where we park it would solve part of the problem. If we took a train to the coast or used car parks rather than expect to find a cheeky free space it would be a good starting point.

We've all saved money by not using car parks so much in the last year, so perhaps we should start using them more now - they exist not only for visitors to park in, but to keep local streets free for local people.

If we walked or cycled to the park as an option rather than just drove there it may be an idea.

Or if the car park at places like Eaton Park is full, perhaps rather than penalising the people that chose to live near it, we should take it as a sign that we should just drive away and go somewhere nearer our own homes, preferably on foot.

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