Wednesday, July 29, 2009
Payback for parkers ... Sunderland Echo
Payback for parkers
29 July 2009
by Tim Booler
Thousands of motorists could get refunds from city centre parking tickets, it was claimed today.
Campaigner Neil Herron says up to 5,500 individuals and businesses could benefit after penalty charges in Sunniside and Park Lane Shopping Village, Sunderland, were scrapped by an independent adjudicator.
Mr Herron represented estate agent Brendan Hackett, who won his appeal against Sunderland Council after parking attendants incorrectly slapped £40 tickets on his car in a pay- and-display area near his office in Frederick Street, on four occasions up to February.
Adjudicator Mark Hinchcliffe noted that the council's Parking Charter says commercial vehicles can have 20 minutes' observation – to see if they are loading or unloading – before a ticket can be issued, but this did not happen.
Mr Hackett said: "Often we have to pop into the office to pick up case files and we were aware that there was an exemption for loading, but it seems that the Civil Enforcement Officers had been told to ignore this and issue instant tickets." "I am pleased that everyone else ticketed illegally will now be able to ask to have their money refunded."
In his ruling, Mr Hinchcliffe questioned the council's policy, adding: "It is hard to understand why in Sunderland some motorists have to pay to park in pay-and-display bays and some don't, depending on what their purpose is."It will, perhaps, be seen that this exemption makes proper enforcement of the on-street pay-and-display parking restrictions very difficult indeed."
Mr Herron, from High Barnes, labelled the council's parking policies "shambolic" and added: "It's a pretty fundamental thing when financially penalising motorists to at least read your own legal documents."You couldn't make a bigger blunder than creating a charter for the public to follow, then deciding not to follow it yourself."
The former market trader urged everyone who has ever had a code five or six penalty notice in one of Sunderland's 13 pay-and-display areas in the last two years to write to the council and request a refund. He also said anyone who did get cash back to make a donation to a good cause, such as the Grace House Children's Hospice Appeal.
Mr Herron also claimed hundreds of drivers ticketed in Derwent Street are due their money back, after winning an appeal against a penalty charge of his own there. It was overturned because a parking bay failed to comply with a Traffic Regulation Order (TRO).
Burney Johnson, head of traffic at Sunderland Council, said: "In pay-and-display bays if loading and unloading is not obvious then observation periods are not normally undertaken. "It is up to the motorist to discharge the onus of proof that they were actually loading and unloading. "
NB. Mr. Johnson really needs to read the Parking Charter, the TRO and the adjudicators decision which stated that 'as there was no observation the appellant does not need to be put to further proof. Looks like this is set to be escalated should the council wish to maintain this position.
As there was no observation period recorded in the Civil Enforcement Officer's notebook, the adjudicator did not consider that there was any justification for putting the appellant to provide further proof and the appeals were allowed."The council's civil enforcement officers have now been requested to ensure that observation periods are carried out."
Mr Johnson said the adjudicator noted the Derwent Street ticket appeal was won on a "somewhat technical basis" as the council had inadvertently refered to an incorrect item number in the TRO.
NB. The 'somewhat technical basis' is a Sunderland City Council phrase to replace the more colloquial term ... 'cock-up.'
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