Anger over parking tickets in country park
A SPATE of parking tickets issued to users of Dinton Pastures has caused anger.
During the Christmas holidays, people flocked to the Hurst nature reserve to walk off their Christmas dinners.
But they were given Christmas presents they didn’t want to receive in the form of parking tickets after being wrongly advised by Wokingham Borough Council’s telephone payment service that parking was free on bank holidays.
Now there are calls for the parking tickets to be revoked.
And it’s not the only trouble with parking tickets.
A PENSIONER has been fined by Wokingham Borough Council for parking in a disabled parking bay with an expired blue badge.
Raymond Hill, who suffers from the chronic lung condition emphysema and lives in Arborfield, said he had not realised his disability badge had expired as he had expected to receive a renewal letter from Wokingham Borough Council.
However, no letter was sent to Mr Hill and he says he was unaware that the badge had expired in October.
On Monday, December 17, he parked in a disabled bay outside the library in the Wokingham Borough Council’s Denmark Street car park.
On his return, just half-an-hour later, he said he was surprised to find a fixed penalty notice on his car for £70 or £35 if paid within 14 days.
Mr Hill contacted the Wokingham Borough Council ( WBC) on the same day, only for the council representative to inform him it had “no obligation” to remind Blue Badge holders to renew said badge, and so the fine still stood.
When he contacted the council again, he said that a different operator claimed “it was normal practice to issue reminders, either in the post or by email”.
On enquiry he soon discovered that Mr Hill’s name had been lost in the database system, hence why he had not been notified about the badge’s expiry.
At this point, Mr Hill has emphasised that he “can’t fault the council” for its assistance with quickly setting up the new badge and arranging delivery for 19 days’ time instead of the standard 35-day delivery.
A senior customer delivery officer at the council even apologised to Mr Hill through a personalised email and assured him that “we do send out these [reminder] letters”. Mr Hill said that she “almost thanked me for bringing it to their attention.”
The parking fine, however, was still to be settled by Wokingham Parking Services (WPC), the organisation based in Sheffield.
Mr Hill said he received a letter from the WPC, stating that the circumstances did not merit cancelling the ticket. It also said there is no obligation from WBC to send out a reminder for the renewal, saying it was the holder’s own responsibility.
Meanwhile, in the general information leaflet accompanying his new Blue Badge which he received last week, Mr Hill found an extract stating that several councils had signed up to a service for that reminder email.
His local councillor, Gary Cowan, contacted the parking manager on Mr Hill’s behalf. According to Cllr Cowan, the parking manager replied, stating that Blue Badge fraud is estimated to cost the UK £46 million a year and the misuse and abuse of disabled parking spaces is a high priority for the enforcement team.
In a letter to The Wokingham Paper, Cllr Cowan said that to suggest an “elderly resident who was not notified of the blue badge renewal date fitted the profile of a £46 million fraudster” is a “bridge too far”.
He claimed that the Conservative Party was looking after one of its one residents in a “ruthless, uncaring and vindictive way”, before saying “come on, give him his money back.”
Cllr Pauline Jorgensen, executive member for highways and transport, said: “We’re sorry to hear Mr Hill has received a parking ticket as a result of his blue badge expiring.
“Councils are not under any statutory obligation to remind badge holders that their badges are due to expire.
“Every Blue Badge holder receives a badge to display in the front of their vehicle which has a clearly marked expiry date.
“With every successful application, we always suggest that the badge holder make a personal note to renew their badge four to six weeks before it expires.
“The Department for Transport also issue a Rights and Responsibilities handbook that is sent with all badges. This provides further detail around an individual’s responsibility for renewing.
“As we run a local blue badge application scheme, we do not use the National Reminder Service. However, we want to provide support to our blue badge holders as much as we can, so do endeavour to send out reminders.
“Unfortunately, in Mr Hill’s case, this did not happen, which we apologise for.
“Once Mr Hill had contacted us, we took immediate action to ensure that a badge was ordered and that his details were updated on our system.
“We would encourage all of our badge holders to make a personal note 4-6 weeks before their badges expire, as a reminder.”