Parking - Greedy council spoil our visit
My family recently took advantage of a gap in my son’s treatment for cancer at Great Ormond Street Hospital to take a short break in Norfolk.
Sadly, the whole trip was ruined by the greed of West Norfolk Council.
Shortly after 4pm on a cold and wet Saturday afternoon we were passing through Hunstanton and my son felt well enough to take a short walk on the beach. We often take advantage of the fact that our blue disabled parking permit allows us to leave our car in restricted areas such as on yellow lines for short periods free of charge. Rather than park on the street near the beach and inconvenience the few other road users around, however, we thought we would use one of the disabled spaces in a large but virtually empty car park which was further away.
In our home area of Hertfordshire, and most other places we’ve visited, this would be free of charge so we didn’t go out of our way to consult the board with parking tariffs. That proved to be a costly mistake. After a short visit to the beach and brief stop in an amusement arcade we returned to our car having been away for about 20 minutes. To our shock, we’d been issued with a parking ticket.
On walking across the car park to check the ticket machine I discovered that disabled badge holders in this part of the country are subject to the same charges as other drivers. Of course, there was no indication of this within sight of the disabled parking space. Had there been we would have left our car on the street, closer to the beach.
The time during which we’d been observed, according to the penalty charge notice, suggested that a civil enforcement officer had watched us arrive, waited for us to be out of sight, then pounced.
It’s hard to believe that business is so good in Hunstanton that the town can afford to drive visitors away at this time of year.
We certainly don’t plan to return after this experience and would advise others to avoid the area.
I did challenge the penalty charge but the council’s parking enforcement department insisted that as it had been correctly issued according to the rules and that signs about charges for disabled drivers conform to national guidelines, we would have to pay.
Having copied my letter of appeal regarding a situation that I think reflects very badly on Hunstanton to local councillors Elizabeth Watson, Paul Beal and Richard Bird, it was disappointing that only Mr Bird took the trouble to get in touch with me. He was only able to reiterate that disabled drivers can’t expect any preferential treatment.
I pointed out to him that such rigid enforcement of parking charges is likely to encourage blue badge holders to park on the road, while disabled spaces in car parks sit empty.
We’ve travelled widely in the UK with a disabled child and this is by far the least sympathetic experience we’ve had related to parking. In the end I’ve had to grit my teeth and pay up, but I think you can guess which of Santa’s naughty and nice lists my son thought the Council should have been on this Christmas.
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Weather for King's Lynn
Friday 24 May 2013
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