Tuesday, 18 June 2013

Update constituents regarding the issue of Eastgate Car Park

I'd like to update constituents regarding the issue of Eastgate Car Park.

- The issue of unpaid fines appear resolved
- The issue of a refund for paid fines is making some progress
- Issues around Eastgate Car Park charging have progressed
- Wider issues about car park fines is making progress

Eastgate car park started issuing Parking Charge Notices in summer last year, after having decided to introduce a 3 hour limit on a previously free car park. Many people got in touch with either the Council or myself outraged about this devious tactic.

Following this public resentment and representations made by my office, as well as legal proceedings, Excel Parking have stopped trying to claim unpaid parking charges, and have been successfully taken to court by Neil Herron of the National Motorists Action Group and ordered to repay at least one fine. It is nothing but greed that caused this to come about in the first place.

But this whole issue has thrown up a many wider issues that need to be resolved. For instance, the car park in question was designated on its planning permission as free to use, however it has since then had charges applied to it. In response to a Parliamentary Question I submitted recently, Local Government Minister Brandon Lewis wrote on behalf of the Government that there are situations under which a car park could be revalued for tax purposes, and I will be writing to the Valuation Office Agency to raise the case of Eastgate car park.

Moreover, the charges for use of parking on private land are to be levied as a result of ‘lost earnings’, and I do not see how this instance, or any other across the UK could conceivably be a loss of earnings. A car park that was designated as free to use in its planning permission, fining people £100 to use it because of loss of earnings is nothing but greed.

This may well lead to a business rate being applied to the car park and forcing the owners to reconsider whether a fines system is worthwhile.

Neil Herron and the NMAG have been doing a lot of good work in recent months on the matter of rip off car parking companies, and have highlighted some problems about the way the British Parking Association’s corporate self-government operates, and the law surrounding access to the DVLA database.

Currently companies are given access to the DVLA database to pursue violations of their parking rules if they are a member of the British Parking Association. I recently wrote to Transport Minister Norman Baker to raise the issue of access to the DVLA database, and to ensure that privacy rules are properly being protected and that he is confident in the rules governing access to the DVLA database.

Mr Herron was pivotal in the case I presented to him, where Jean and David Whittaker of Knuzden were able to win an 8 month legal battle backed by NMAG against Vehicle Control Services, the company that issued the tickets. They were issued a ticket, but I advised them not to pay, and instead to contact the National Motorists’ Action Group, who very kindly gave free legal advice and backing. After making the Whittakers’ rights known, Vehicle Control Services dropped their claim – knowing it was unfair and nothing more than an attempt to take money from people.

Disgracefully disabled people were given tickets. We are now pushing a further case with NMAG that the car parking charge time limits breach the Equality Act 2010.

The prevailing view was that nothing could be done and it was certainly the intention of the parking companies to reinforce this belief. However as your determined MP, I have pursued this matter and in conjunction with the NMAG significant progress is being made and Hyndburn constituents are receiving justice.

I would encourage anyone who is interested, or feels that they have been unfairly treated by a private car parking company to visit the National Motorist Action Group’s website.