Anger over park­ing tick­ets in coun­try park

The Wokingham Paper - - FRONT PAGE - By KATE NI­CHOL­SON

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.”

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