Regular readers will have seen the many articles, comments and letters that have been published on the subject of Smart Parking, which runs the very well used Western Car Park in Camber.
In view of this, we decided to find out a little more about Rother District Council’s relationship with Smart Parking and submitted a Freedom of Information request to RDC.
The questions and RDC’s answers are set out below and readers may feel that some answers beg further questions and in the case of question number 8, the answer appears to be in direct contradiction to the experience of many users, including a director of Rye News.
1. Please list all car parks for which Rother District Council (RDC) uses Smart
Camber Western car park is the only RDC car park that uses Smart Parking.
2. What was the tendering process that led to SP getting the contract? Please let
us have all available documentation regarding the process that led to SP getting the contract and the contract terms.
Smart Parking operates an Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) car park management system which was launched as a 19-month trial on Monday, March 26, (documents associated with the tendering process are attached, the contract document is considered to be exempt under S.43(2) commercial interests) and was implemented in response to local concerns about the traffic congestion on the approaches to the beach, which attracts over a million visitors a year. The aim is to increase the free flow of traffic into the car park. Smart Parking was recommended by consultants, following extensive research and traffic surveillance, and was implemented by exemption due to time constraints.
3. Which other firms were considered?
Capita Parking Services; ANPR Car Parks; Your Parking Space
4. Why is the contract not run “in house”?
Rother District Council does not have the expertise or technology to operate in house ANPR parking.
5. Please list the car parks and operators that RDC uses for other car parks in
RDC’s control that are looked after by third parties?
6. Who is responsible for the design, installation and upkeep of the machinery
and signage? Did RDC approve all these elements in advance?
Smart Parking is responsible for the above, in accordance with its governing body, British Parking Association. RDC approved these elements in advance.
7. To whom should car park users report payment-machine failures (including
breakdowns) and within what timescale must they be repaired? Who is responsible for the repair and who pays for the repair?
Breakdowns and payment machine failures can be reported to Smart Parking, staff on duty in the car park, coastal office staff, and Neighbourhood Services staff by telephone. Smart Parking is responsible for the repairs and associated costs.
8. If a payment machine is broken do users get extra time as they need to find a
There is a grace period to allow visitors to find a payment machine, obtain change if needed and pay for parking – the grace period takes into account these possibilities.
9. Is there a complaints figure above which RDC will terminate the contract?
What is that figure?
10. When is the first review of SP’s performance and what penalties can RDC
Rother District Council has held regular review meetings with Smart Parking to date – the 19-month trial is due to end in October 2019 at which point the contract will be reviewed
11. How is SP’s performance measured?
Rother District Council holds regular review meetings with Smart Parking.
12. What early-termination clauses does RDC have and what penalties, if any.
must it pay to exercise them?
The scheme is a 19-month trial, due to end in October 2019, there are no penalties which Rother District Council must pay to terminate
13. How much of the revenue generated from penalty notices does RDC receive?
Rother District Council receives the pay-and-display revenue, and Smart Parking receives the revenue generated from penalty notices.
14. A cursory web search brings up a lot of problems reported by users of SP-controlled car parks. It appears SP had its contract with Matalan terminated last year and Asda did not renew their contract with them two years ago. Did RDC investigate these and other complaints before using SP?
As with all contractors due diligence was completed prior to the commencement of the trial.
It would seem from the above, therefore, that like it or not, visitors to Camber are stuck with this car-park operator for at least another summer season and our advice is to make sure you keep your tickets and if you think your time is almost up when you leave, take a photo of the time shown at that moment on the ticket machine and challenge any penalty you might get which seems even remotely unfair or incorrect. Do not be bullied into paying a penalty charge that you do not think has been justly incurred.
You should also forward details of any complaints to Rother District Council so that they can bring these up at their “regular review meetings” with Smart Parking. They do not, of course, say how “regular” is regular – once a month, or once a year. This and the procedure of these meetings could possibly be the subject of a further F.o.I. request
Image Credits: Rye News library.