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Beware the Car Parking Traps, .. a
A Billericay resident parked his car in the Westgate car-park in Basildon, bought and displayed a valid ticket, later returned to his car well before the expiry time, and drove home. Imagine his shock and anger when 5 weeks later he received a letter from a Private Parking Company (PPC) headed 'Notice to owner - do not ignore' and 'Amount outstanding £90.00'. The letter claimed that the motorist had ignored a Parking Charge Notice (PCN) that was issued for failing to display a valid ticket, and also made mention of possible court action and debt recovery. The motorist appealed, enclosing an image of the ticket, which luckily he still possessed. Several weeks later, the PPC formally cancelled this claim.
Internet searches and anecdotal evidence both suggest that this incident is far from unique – the vast majority with much less happy outcomes.
Generally, car-parks are managed by a PPC, or equivalent organisation, on behalf of the owners of the land. There is now an appeals process against spurious PCNs, but it is funded by the industry, and it remains the case that any innocent motorist could still face court action and / or exorbitant penalties.
Many PPCs are members of the British Parking Association, and as such they are obliged to adhere to its Code of Practice. A recent change gives eye-watering insight. Paragraph 9.4 reads "Effective from 1st October 2015, the practice of offering financial incentives to ... parking attendants/wardens which relate to the quantity of PCNs issued by them, should be prohibited within all new employee contracts." Draw your own conclusions!
In Billericay, Waitrose operates its own scheme, but 'Pay & Display' options are available at the Iceland, Blue Boar, Station, and Radford Crescent car parks. St Edith's Lane is one to be particularly cautious about; it is free for an hour, but the motorist is completely at the mercy of the accuracy of the attendant's records.
My advice to motorists is that they should not give the Parking Company any excuse to issue a PCN, including through contravening the time authorised, or by straddling more than one marked bay. But even if you keep to the rules, be wary, and as a minimum keep your ticket for at least five weeks.
Billericay Swimming Pool
Good morning, John (this letter addressed to the BDRA Chairman, John Buchanan)
I’m writing to you after seeing the column in The Resident, I thought I should write to you and let you know what’s going on and how we can possibly help each other out.
We understand the concerns of the residents of Billericay and share the frustration that nothing has been done yet in terms of a refurbishment of the swimming pool. This comes down from the Managing Directors of First Strokes, to me and all of my staff; we are desperate to have a centre to be proud of!
The locker situation is being sorted, First Strokes have themselves paid for new lockers to be put in to the changing rooms at a significant cost, we are waiting for an install date but we are hoping for them to be installed during our 2 week shutdown over Christmas, if not it’ll certainly be by the end of January.
Significant investment had to be made in the plant room to improve water quality and fix the boiler. These are things people can’t see but I want to assure you and the residents that money has been spent on the building, just unfortunately not where we would have liked to spend it e.g. a new disabled hoist.
In regards to a total refurb of the centre, First Strokes has been liaising with the Basildon Council since 2012 about the re-negotiation of the lease for the building, without success, we keep being put to the bottom of the pile time and time again! I hope you can understand that without security of a lease in place First Strokes cannot commit to a refurbishment plan. I believe there is money available from the Council too that will help with a refurb.
We are trying to put pressure on the Council to get something in place by trying to get all our customers to write in to the Council about the state of the building, how it could do with a refurb, etc, try and force their hand a bit. I’m hoping this is something you can help us with.