FOR months complaints about Burton’s Queen’s Hospital’s new parking system have been flooding in – and now one motoring company has branded it as ‘unfair’.
A system that was introduced in a bid to aid the elderly and disabled, it has resulted in being the exact opposite.
Since being brought in in October, it has left many people stumped, backing away from the machine after paying their money – often over-estimating how long they will be at the site – wondering if they used it correctly.
Dozens of motorists have been left confused and insulted after receiving penalty charges in the post, not knowing what it is they have done wrong.
Hospital users have branded it ‘cruel’, ‘disgusting’ and ‘ridiculous’, with other victims suspecting it is nothing more than a money-making ploy.
A review into the system is still said to be ‘ongoing’, but bosses at Queen’s Hospital have insisted complaints are now dwindling as people start to get to grips with how it works.
But the finger of blame has now turned on the company which operates the system, Parking Eye.
As well as anger at how the machines work and the sheer number of fines being issued, people have been left frustrated at the almost impossible task of getting in touch with the firm.
It has a designated section on its website where people who feel they have been wronged can make an appeal – and many charges have been successfully overturned – but as for speaking to somebody in person, that has proved more difficult.
While many people may have successfully fought off the fines, there are fears that others who have unknowingly made an error while paying may have just stumped up the cash presuming the charge must be correct.
There has also been anger that an initial notice will often be quickly followed up by a menacing looking reminder.
Gerald Shorthouse, from Yoxall, was issued with his £70 fine on a Friday, before receiving the reminder the following Monday – one working day later.
Paul Watters, from the AA, said he was uneasy with the concept of private parking machines at hospitals.
He said: “I don’t personally think automatic number plate recognition systems are particularly fair; they are revenue generating. It’s a bit of a sledge hammer really.
“People visiting hospitals are often in stressful situations or might be ill.”
“Is charging someone who has run over by 10 minutes £70 an accurate pre-estimate of loss?
“It’s not a healthy arrangement. The government does not regulate private parking.
“A lot of these companies have email addresses, but not many have phone numbers. They are dealing with mass volume and there is a long line of people who might be challenging.”
But what are the laws surrounding private parking charges and what should someone do if they believe they have been wrongly issued with a fine?
Many forums and blogs swirling around the internet insist that the fines are not enforceable, and therefore will just go away if ignored for long enough.
But Mr Watters said, in reality, it is not quite that simple.
He said: “There has been a lot of questions about private parking companies and where they stand legally. The advice basically is that someone can’t be made to pay a ticket unless they are taken to court. But I have heard of companies that are taking thousands of people to court and the option of not paying is starting to diminish.
“But if someone feels the charge is wrong, appeal it straight away to Parking Eye and if that doesn’t work go to POPLA (Parking on Private Land Appeals).”
Parking Eye defended the use of the system at Burton’s Queen’s Hospital.
A spokesman said: “Hospitals are on private land and therefore private parking is applicable. Car park users enter into a contract to pay the appropriate amount for the duration of their visit or not exceed free parking limits.
“A reasonable grace period is always offered that is sufficient for normal usage of the car park in question. The systems we have in place have allowed for the removal of barriers which can sometimes make it difficult for elderly and disabled motorists.
“We understand that genuine mistakes are sometimes made. We therefore operate an appeals process and encourage people to appeal if they feel there are mitigating circumstances.”