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SHOPPING CENTRE: Motorists wrongly fined at car park to be refunded

SHOPPING CENTRE: Motorists wrongly fined at car park to be refunded

Cherry Tree allowed blue badge holders to park for free for up to three hours in disabled bays after the handover, Image: Google Maps

Motorists who have “wrongly” been fined for parking in a Wirral car park can now get their money back.

In August this year, private firm Smart Parking took over the car park at Cherry Tree Shopping Centre in Liscard.

Cherry Tree allowed blue badge holders to park for free for up to three hours in disabled bays after the handover.

Despite this, elderly and disabled drivers were still being fined, something which has caused huge frustration in the local community.

This appears to be due to the fact that Smart Parking use an automated camera system.

This system checks number plates against tickets and automatically generates one for any driver who did not buy a ticket.

Therefore, blue badge holders have been getting fined.

But following a meeting between Wirral Council leader Janette Williamson, fellow Labour councillor Daisy Kenny and Smart Parking, motorists will be able to overturn fines handed out in error.

The following actions were also agreed:

Two Smart Parking attendants are on site from 8am to 5pm to register blue badge holders on Smart Parking’s system.

The main sign has been updated to reflect the process for blue badge holders.

Smart Parking has agreed any unjust fines to disabled blue badge holders will be refunded when appealed (follow the instruction on the fine).

Cllr Janette Williamson, leader of Wirral Council, said: “Disabled drivers were wrongly hit with parking fines, and there has been a general lack of clarity around signage.

“A number of blue badge holders who parked at the Cherry Tree Centre found they’d been issued with fines – despite them being entitled to park for free.”

The Labour leader, who represents Liscard, added: “This has been causing distress for many residents, so we asked to meet with Smart Parking to look at the issues around blue badges and making the signs more clear so that there would be no more of these heavy handed fines going forward.

“We also asked them to uphold any appeals from drivers who have been harshly or unreasonably fined.”

Fellow Liscard councillor Daisy Kenny added: “We are working with a contact at Smart Parking who have demonstrated they are eager to work with us to resolve these issues. We are glad that progress has been made.

“I would like to thank Helen Kirk and the other administrators of the Facebook group ‘Smart Parking and Cherry Tree Shopping Centre’ for all the appeals they have helped with.

“The group has over 700 members, to have helped that many people on a voluntary basis is amazing.”

The Labour councillor added: “If anyone needs help with writing an appeal I would suggest they join and contact this incredible group.

“The Labour councillors have asked for the signs by the disabled spaces to be updated to reflect the new process for blue badge holders.

“Those who paid the fine in fear can request a refund. Send details including proof of your blue badge to daisy.kenny@wirral.gov.uk as we are collating a list to send to our contact at Smart Parking.”

A spokesperson for Smart Parking said: “Smart Parking recently signed a lease to operate Cherry Tree car park and as such, it is our aim to manage the facility in a way that stops parking abuse and insures that genuine motorists and users of the centre can always find a place to park.

“At the car park we use a state of the art ANPR parking management system, linked to ultra-modern payment machines.

“This equipment allows us to accurately monitor cars both entering and exiting as well as the corresponding details entered into the payment machines.

“As Cherry Tree car park is private land, before anyone decides to park there, they should check the terms and conditions of use which are clearly advertised throughout the site.”

The spokesperson added: “In respect to Blue Badges, these are not valid on privates land, and motorists are told this when they are issued with them.

“However, at the Cherry Tree Car Park and as a gesture of goodwill, Smart Parking do recognise them and allow them to be used by holders to secure free parking.

“To manage this effectively during operational hours we have employed two attendants to monitor and record all Blue Badges utilised on the site.

“Smart Parking are proud members of the British Parking Association (BPA) and strictly follow its guidelines.

“In addition we operate a BPA audited appeals process and we would recommend to any motorist who feels that they have been incorrectly issued with a charge to contact us directly.”

In response to complaints on the parking issues last month, Cherry Tree Shopping Centre posted the following message on Facebook: “Cherry Tree Shopping Centre is aware that some blue badge holders have been sent Parking Charge Notices in error by our tenant, Smart Parking.

“We are presently working with Smart Parking to resolve this issue permanently, but in the meantime should any blue badge holder receive a Parking Charge Notice they will be able to get this cancelled by following the appeals process on the back of the letter.

“As part of the appeal process, you will be required to upload a copy of your blue badge to Smart Parking’s website and this file should be less than 3mb or the website will not accept it.

“We understand that these notices will have caused concern to our customers and would like to apologise for the inconvenience caused. Should anyone require any further information, please email info@smartparking.com.”

Cherry Tree Shopping Centre was approached for comment.

 

Words: George Morgan, Local Democracy Reporter


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