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News & views

Private parking signs: sometimes so bad they’re criminal

[12 March 2015] As we’ve reported before, about two million drivers are penalized at private-parking sites around the country every year, often to the tune of £70–100 a time. They fall foul of the petty rules dreamt up by a largely unregulated industry whose main purpose is to impose penalties and then threaten non-payers with courts and bailiffs. It’s become an unsavoury fact of British life.

But here’s a strange thing. At some – perhaps most – of the 20,000+ sites, the signs that supposedly set out the parking terms and conditions have been erected illegally. They don’t have the advertising permission they need from the local council. This is a criminal offence from the moment they’re put up. Just how widespread this is, we don’t yet know. But at one of the most controversial sites, the Queen’s Hospital, Burton, Staffordshire, the local council has now written to the hospital trust to explain that it’s committing a criminal offence.

You can read our article about the ambiguous and unclear Queen’s signs, ‘ParkingEye’s unclear signs plague hospital patients and visitors’, here:

You’ll see from the council’s letter (download here) that the trust (or its contractor ParkingEye, if they are responsible for the signs) has 14 days to apply for the permission it needs. How lucky the trust is to get a 14-day warning to put right a criminal offence, while thousands of drivers get an immediate £70 penalty notice through the post for a supposed breach of contract!

We’ve asked the Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency how it can justify selling drivers’ data to ParkingEye, which enables them to be chased for penalties, when the Queen’s signs have apparently been erected unlawfully. But we know the answer before it arrives: ‘Advertising permission is not our responsibility. This is a self-regulating industry. We’ll keep selling the data until you can do better than this. Go away.’ [cont]

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