Last week the Northants Telegraph told the story of dozens of motorists who had been used to parking for free at the former Co-op car park in Alexandra Road, Corby.
They were caught out when new parking charges were introduced at the end of March and many failed to notice the new signs and ANPR cameras - landing them with huge charges.
Since then, more motorists have been in touch to speak about their tickets. Many are planning to challenge Smart Parking, which runs the car park on behalf of landowner Co-op.
Angus Gill of the British Motorists Protection Association said he had been in touch with some of the drivers from Corby. He said: “Firstly this hijacking of motorists by suddenly changing terms and conditions is actually in breach of the code of practice that Smart signed up to with the British Parking Association.
“They have a specific clause which covers this. The “grace” period has been suggested as one month and not three days to allow this familiarisation.
“Where there is any change in the terms and conditions that materially affects the motorist then you should make these clear on signs. Where such changes impose liability where none previously existed then you should consider a grace period to allow regular visitors to the site to adjust and familiarise themselves with the changes.
“Secondly, local drivers tell us the mandatory entrance signs - again required by the Code of Practice - are not there or were not there when Smart started to turn on the cameras.
“Lastly, it is frequently the case with most parking companies, though we have not been able to verify this, that they fail to apply for planning permission to have the new signs in place. And occasionally there will be restrictions within the existing planning permissions that limit what companies like Smart can do.
“Since most of the profit for these companies relies on catching drivers unaware, drivers must appeal to Smart and remind them they have responsibilities to make people aware of these changes. Perhaps your readers caught out by these signs will remind them.”
One of the motorists caught out, Stuart Rochester from Gretton said: “Like a great many other local residents I have used the old Co-op parking area for over twenty years and the majority of times it was only for the free half hour.
“On the occasion your (Smart Parking) camera filmed my car, I only used the car park for 25 minutes. For many weeks now the old Co-op ticket machine has never provided parking tickets.
“Did your company not think at anytime that previous regular customers would have welcomed public notices advising of the planned changes in the rules, regulations and cost structures?”
Lawrence Warren, 77, from Corby, also received a ticket. He said: “There was no warning given that the Co-op’s previous parking ticket machines were no longer valid and part of their policy was that the first thirty minutes notice was charged.
“People like me, aged 77, generally don’t use the internet or broadband at all so therefore just drive into the car park not being aware that a new company had taken over.
“Indeed my own supervisor parked for only 12 minutes and, like myself, had no idea that your company was running the car park.”
Car parking was free for two months after Co-op moved out in January. The site is currently for sale for £2.9m.
Driver Heather Shears saw the old parking signs dumped in a skip in the car park. They are not substantially differet from the old signs, which may be a reason why people failed to spot the new signs.
Heather said: “I have just received my ticket. I’ve always parked there when I’ve gone to the bingo because the bingo had an agreement with Co-op that people could park there in the evening.
“Smart Parking didn’t tell the bingo that the rules had changed so there are so many people that have been caught out.”
Previously, a Smart Parking spokesman told the Northants Telegraph: “Smart Parking recently changed the tariffs at this car park.
“Ahead of doing this we instilled 29 new signs which cleanly state the new terms and conditions of use. This new signage is markedly different to the old signage in both colour and design. In addition, Smart Parking initiated a three-day crossover period before the new tariffs come into effect.
“We would remind any motorist to always check the terms and conditions of use at a private car park.”
Read more: http://www.northantstelegraph.co.uk/news/top-stories/drivers-warned-of-new-parking-rules-at-corby-car-park-1-7319814#ixzz45u9iy6w0
There is information about challenging parking tickets here
Here is a template letter from the BMPA for people who have got a ticket at the car park. It can be accompanied by a copy of this article.
Appeal Letter to Smart Parking
Re: PCN No:
I challenge this ‘PCN’ as keeper of the car and I will complain to the landowner about the matter if it is not cancelled.
I believe that the signs were not seen/are ambiguous and the terms unclear to drivers before they park. Further, I understand you do not own the car park and you have given me no information about your policy with the landowner or on site businesses, to cancel such a charge. So please supply that policy as I believe the driver may well be eligible for cancellation.
There will be no admissions as to who was driving and no assumptions can be drawn. You must either rely on the POFA 2012 and offer me a POPLA code, or cancel the charge.
I have also attached copies of photos from an article from the Northamptonshire Telegraph showing the signs are not “materially different” as you claim. Other photos also show missing signs in the car park. Finally I wish to point out your breach of the BPA Code of practice 18.1
18.1 Where there is any change in the terms and conditions that materially affects the motorist then you should make these clear on your signage. Where such changes impose liability where none previously existed then you should consider a grace period to allow regular visitors to the site to adjust and familiarise themselves with the changes.
Clearly you have failed significantly with regards to the code.
I have kept proof of submission of this appeal and look forward to your reply.