Readers keep writing in Rye News expressing their sense of outrage at the installation and operation of the new parking regime at Camber Western car park.
The greatest communal impact has clearly been upon Camber residents, who have seen their village gridlocked by frustrated motorists attempting to access the beach. Residents blame this directly on the illegal parking of those seeking to avoid paying charges for the car park.
To some extent, they have been helped by police stationed at busiest times at the A259 Camber turn-off, re-directing traffic away from Camber, except for those residents displaying an identification notice on their windscreen. The morning of July 1 was again exceptionally hot, and the traffic through Rye was queuing well up Playden Hill and from Station Approach traveling east.
The practices of Smart Parking Ltd have brought much distress to those who have fallen foul of this commercial operator. In a number of cases, Penalty Notices have been incorrectly issued, carrying £100 fines if not paid promptly. In all cases of challenge known to us, the company has refused to back down in the face of the evidence.
In at least three reported cases the correct fee was paid, but the parking meter failed to issue a receipt ticket, resulting in a fine. On one occasion, Smart Parking informed the driver that “on the date of contravention there were two payment machines taking payments and printing tickets” implying that it is the driver’s responsibility to tour the half-dozen or so meters, paying at each one until a fully operational meter is found to give a receipt. In another, case, a 15-minute time over-run resulted from the futile search for a parking attendant to report the meter failure. In a third case, evidence of correct payment was submitted by sending the Visa statement to Smart Parking, but they still refused to admit they were wrong.
People complaining to Rother District Council have been referred to the appeals procedure run by POPLA, the industry adjudicator. This has proved successful in one case where the motorist had parked outside the gates when they were closed at the time. He challenged the PCN penalty notice on the grounds that no contract had been entered into. POPLA ruled that the operator had failed to prove that the penalty was correctly issued.
Although there was some prior consultation with Camber Parish Council representatives, no planning permission was sought by Rother District Council, or indeed deemed to be necessary for the extensive installation of signage and other industrial equipment.
What is for sure is that a scene of peaceful enjoyment has been turned into a hostile commercial environment, causing unnecessary stress on those who have paid without considering how long their visit to the beach might last. A number of readers have vowed that they will never use this car park again. It is doubtful whether their decision will be of any consequence whatsoever to Smart Parking, who, it would appear, derive so much of their profit from issuing penalty notices. However, it does pay to challenge and appeal these excessive penalty fines.
Photo: Rye News library