Monday, October 06, 2008

Lysette Anthony suffers parking ticket hell in Camden

Let's not forget that the story below is about Camden's parking restrictions

Meanwhile, as the majority of the parking restrictions in Camden are suspect to say the least if anyone cares to pass on our contact details we will handle any appeal for Lysette neil@parkingappeals.co.uk

It makes me sick: Actress Lysette Anthony falls foul of parking wardens while visiting son in hospital
By Lysette Anthony
October 2008
Comments (43)

Lying in the harshly lit anaesthesia room at Great Ormond Street Hospital, my four-year-old son Jimi was frightened. So as his little body collapsed under the weight of the drugs, common sense told me this was the ‘good bit’ – that now he was asleep he wasn’t in pain.

Diagnosed a year ago with juvenile arthritis – a childhood form of the disease that causes swelling in sufferers’ joints, making their limbs seize up so they struggle to walk – he was having steroids injected into his ankles to make them stronger.

It is the latest in a string of intrusive and gruelling treatments, including chemotherapy and a cocktail of painkillers, that he has bravely endured to combat his condition.

Forty-five angst-ridden minutes later, he came round from the anaesthetic, groggy and disorientated. We were told to keep him off his feet for at least 24 hours. Carrying him away in our arms, I thought that although Jimi, myself and my partner Simon Boswell were exhausted, at least the worst was over.

But arriving back at our car, we came across yet another obstacle to an already traumatic morning. A traffic warden or, as Jimi calls them, a ‘green man’, on account of the colour of his synthetic uniform, was putting a parking ticket on our windscreen.
Because we had arrived back 20 minutes late, we were being fined £60.

I lost my temper.

I have spent the past year worried sick about my son’s health. I had been pacing our North London home since 4.30am and the last thing I needed was a ‘Civil Enforcement Officer’ – as they are called nowadays – laying down the law to us.

He didn’t speak, other than to reel off a string of numbers – presumably our offending code – and summon his ‘co-officer’ from across the street. The pair then repeated the numbers to each other, more inaudible machines than human beings.

As I reached in to secure Jimi’s seat belt I snapped: ‘Do you think we’re here for a cup of tea and a sodding sandwich? This is a children’s HOSPITAL. Our son has just had an OPERATION. For 20 minutes you’re fining us £60? Shame on you!’

To their credit they had the good grace to seem embarrassed but their shame was scant compensation. This was the second fine we had received in as many weeks, and it has left both Simon and me incandescent with rage.

Surely, with the parents of a sick child, they could have exercised compassion. Shouldn’t a guaranteed parking space in the proximity of any hospital be a patient’s right? What are we supposed to do, call an ambulance every time Jimi needs treatment?

As difficult as it is to accept sometimes, we are the lucky ones. This spring Camden Council, the London borough under whose control Great Ormond Street lies, issued us with a disabled blue badge.

This allows us to park for up to three hours at a time on the single yellow line outside the hospital, which only badge-holders and ambulances are allowed to do. It is a laminated card with a cardboard clock you adjust to show when you parked.

We had arrived at the sick children’s hospital at 7am one day last month, the time all youngsters awaiting an operation under anaesthetic are expected to turn up. Wardens control the area from 8.30am.

At 11.20am Simon had left us in our hospital room to check on the car. He knew he needed to move it but there was nowhere to go.

Parking in London is exorbitant for everyone. However, at Great Ormond Street Hospital there isn’t even a car park to complain about. So, unsurprisingly, the street was packed.
Simon adjusted the cardboard clock to 11.20, assuming, wrongly, that wardens patrolling the area would understand our predicament and allow us more time. For both of us, it was the last straw.

Only a week earlier, while waiting for Jimi’s pre-operation assessment, we had been fined another £60. Simon had accidently left our badge – showing the prerequisite photograph of our son’s face, along with the badge details, issue number and expiry date – the wrong side up in the car. It was an innocent mistake but one the traffic warden, the same man on both occasions, was prepared to penalise us for.

Technically, of course, we were in the wrong. But isn’t £120 of fines, received while clearly visiting a hospital, rather disproportionate? And is the surrounding area of a hospital, which has scandalously limited parking, really a fit zone in which aggressively to pursue council targets?
We’re not the only ones for whom proximity to the hospital is of paramount importance and I am sure many other parents have encountered the same problems. Nor is this solely an issue for the capital. Hospitals around Britain – ones that do have car parks – often charge an outrageous fee.
Before we were given our disabled badge, we frequented pay-and-display areas other relatives are still forced to use. It costs 20p for five minutes in these – £4.80 per hour – and the maximum stay is two hours. In the year it took for Jimi to be diagnosed we would often have to wait up to five hours to see a consultant.

We were never given a precise time for these appointments. Both Simon, a composer, and I would have to take time off work simply to deal with the parking problems, spending hundreds of pounds in the process.

We thought a blue badge would afford us the simple luxury of being able to care for our son – who has been in and out of hospital up to four times a week for the past 12 months – instead of worrying about our car. Evidently, we were wrong.

As a society, we seem to have relinquished responsibility to an automated tribe of traffic wardens who don’t even have the manners to offer an explanation.

All individuality has been stripped away in their zealous attempts to catch out decent, taxpaying citizens so they can reach the financial targets set by their relentless bosses.
They hunt like pariah dogs and relatives of the vulnerable and ill are not their only targets. They will prey on anyone who will help them increase their revenue.I admit that being a traffic warden must be a horrible job. But would it really hurt them to look us in the eye as they slap on their extortionate fines?

Needless to say, we haven’t paid either fine. Simon has written to Camden Council arguing our case and asking how they can justify their employees’ uncaring attitude. They say they will consider any mitigating circumstances when processing the appeal. I don’t blame Great Ormond Street, who are doing a fantastic job caring for our son.

But I worry that unless the council finds more space for patients and their relatives to park in, and exercises more tolerance towards its targets, it is not just his health that will suffer. Countless other sick children will not be able to receive the medical attention they require – simply because their parents cannot park near enough to the hospital.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Please forword a copy of your video to my email as they deleted it because of content.
Thanks,
Cloudancer
cloudance@netzero.net

The Hundred said...

you were so hot in Krull :)

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