Car park operator appeals system '˜needs to change' as the vulnerable continue to be stung

COMMUNITY leaders have called for an end to an unfair parking fine appeal system that plagues people visiting a health centre.

Wednesday, 26th April 2017, 6:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 9th May 2017, 6:29 pm
Havant Health Centre

Another elderly person has been hit by the system put in place by Smart Parking at Havant Health Centre, which was introduced to stop those not visiting the centre from parking there.

People with an appointment at the health hub, which houses three doctors’ surgeries, two dental practices and a pharmacy, can park at the centre for free, providing they enter their vehicle registration details into a terminal inside.

But it’s proving difficult for elderly, disabled and vulnerable people to use, and many have received parking charge notices. Despite explaining their difficulties in using the machines to the car park operator, their appeals are refused.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

Seventy-three-year-old Ralph Jones, from Denmead, said: ‘My wife and I drove my sister-in-law to an appointment at Havant Health Centre. She can’t drive because she’s disabled and blind.

‘My wife went inside with her and attempted to enter our registration details into a machine, but it wasn’t working. She couldn’t find the OK button and wasn’t sure whether it wasn’t coming up or she couldn’t see it.

‘She asked a receptionist if the machine was working, to which the woman replied “it was earlier”. My wife wasn’t sure what else to do, so tried once more but had no luck.

‘One week later we received a PCN for £60 from Smart Parking. The letter said we could appeal, but if the charge isn’t paid within two weeks, it goes up to £100.

‘We wrote a letter to the company, gave them the name of my sister-in-law and the details of her appointment, and explained that we did try to enter our details. It got refused, so we paid £60.

‘I was really cross, we’ve been treated as if we’ve done something wrong and it makes you wonder how many other people this has happened to.’

A spokesman for Smart Parking said on the day in question, the machines were fully operational and used by others. But, given the mitigating circumstances surrounding Mr Jones’ case, the charge would be cancelled.

When The News reported on the charge given to a disabled resident in December, whose appeal was refused, NHS Property Services said Smart Parking’s appeals service was being reviewed – but the problem appears to have continued.

Havant Ukip group leader, John Perry and Havant MP Alan Mak have both been working to get the charges reversed for people like Mr Jones and his family, who made all efforts to abide by the rules.

Councillor Perry said: ‘It’s all very well Smart Parking reversing Mr Jones’ charge in this instance, but what about the others who appeal and have no luck?

‘Something needs to change because since last July I’ve been contacted by lots of vulnerable people who have been caught out by the system, in need of help.

‘There must be a fair appeals procedure to ensure the elderly and disabled, who may not be computer literate, are not unfairly punished for minor administrative non-compliance.’

Mr Mak added: ‘It’s disappointing to hear the company has ticketed elderly and vulnerable residents using the centre. I’ve pushed them to ensure patients get a refund on appeal and I’m happy to help anyone caught out.’

In July centre visitor Jaqueline Gale-Cranna, who has Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disorder, told The News she received a PCN after entering a number 0 instead of a letter O into the machine. Her appeal was refused.

A spokesperson for NHS Property Services said: ‘We will continue to work with the company to ensure parking charge notices and appeals are handled appropriately.’

Beryl Francis, councillor for Warren Park, added: ‘If people make efforts to enter their details into a machine and they’re penalised because something goes wrong or they make a mistake, it’s unfair.’