A new campaign demanding reform of parking arrangements at Lynn’s Queen Elizabeth Hospital has been backed by the town’s MP.
North West Norfolk MP Henry Bellingham has endorsed calls for a pay-on-exit barrier system to be introduced at the site, instead of the existing pay and display arrangements.
The call came after a father whose family were hit by a parking fine at the hospital uncovered figures showing that more than 3,000 drivers received fines there last year.
But hospital officials say a barrier system has already been looked at and ruled out because of fears about the possibility of generating longer delays in the area.
Mr Bellingham told the Lynn News he believed the current system was unfair and there was growing anger among the public over the issue of parking enforcement.
He said: “The problem could be dealt with very easily. The hospital management must get to grips with this. They are losing public confidence.”
He added that paying on exit would also take pressure off the Springwood and Fairstead housing estates where parking by cars displaced from the hospital car park was becoming a real issue.
Plans for a multi-storey car park at the hospital were shelved last autumn, though trust officials admitted the idea could be looked at again in the future if the parking situation worsened.
A spokesman said: “We do understand the frustration that parking can cause for visitors. In the past year we have created an additional 220 parking spaces in the car park and this has eased congestion considerably.”
But Mr Bellingham is supporting the call of businessman Paul Albutt, who took up the issue after his wife found a parking ticket on her car when she took their diabetic son to the hospital.
He is now challenging the fine, issued by County Parking, the private company which manages the car park for the trust.
A Freedom of Information request subsequently submitted by Mr Albutt revealed that 3,044 fines were issued to drivers at the hospital last year.
The hospital has confirmed that money collected from fines is kept by County Parking, while cash generated from parking changes goes to the hospital and is spent on patient care.
But Mr Albutt, of Wisbech St Mary, said: “What I have got a problem with – and I believe any fair-minded person would have a problem with - is a third party coming in and taking money away from the hospital.”
He argued a barrier system would be fairer for everyone and added: “I think the people of West Norfolk and Fenland deserve a better service.”
He stressed that he had no problem with the cost of parking at the hospital and praised the standard of care his family had received there as patients.
But one hospital worker said it already took up to 45 minutes to exit the hospital on to Gayton Road during the evening rush hour. He feared it could take up to two hours with a barrier system.
The hospital’s spokesman added: “The system of charging for our car park is the same pay-and-display method used in many town centre car parks. We are looking at alternatives more suited to present day conditions. One of the alternatives considered has been a pay-on-exit method.
However, if this involves a barrier system it could create even longer delays than at present at peak times, particularly at the end of afternoon visiting.”
He said the hospital was working with West Norfolk Council to try to remedy traffic congestion on Gayton Road at peak times.