Parking Enforcement on Looe Harbour Commissioners Land – The Facts
Statement dated: 25/01/17
As a result of many weeks of complaints to the Looe Harbour Commissioners’ (LHC) and statements posted on social media relating to parking enforcement on LHC owned land, the Assistant HM was tasked to produce a full report for the Commissioners perusal, from which an informed decision regarding parking enforcement on LHC land could be made.
80 man hours were invested into producing the said report, on top of which, many hours have been spent investigating a number of appeals submitted to AS parking.
Much discussion followed within the Board room of LHC and it has been decided to release a summary of salient points raised, as follows;
LHC are a registered charity that exists by self-generation of income.
The Harbour car parks are the most important asset of the charity, with 65 % of the ports’ annual income being generated from the car parks.
It should be noted that the revenue from these car parks is not only used to support LHC operations, but is also used for a wide range of community projects, each of which supports both the fishing and tourist industries and ultimately assists in ensuring that the town remain sustainable for many years to come.
Prior to a contract being agreed with AS Parking Services in 2012, all ticketing and penalty notices were handled by ‘in-house’ staff. This practice was curtailed after allegations of nepotism and favouritism were made against certain members of staff with regards to local people, family and friends. LHC’s car parks began to be seen as a ‘local’ asset to be used by local people as they saw fit, as opposed to its true function as the primary finance generator and ‘life blood’ of Looe Harbour Charity.
As custodians of the Charities finances, The Commissioners realized that these practices had to be stopped.
The Commissioners investigated many other options to include; installation of entrance/exit barriers and full management of the penalty system ‘in house’ by LHC staff under the new legislative guidelines, alternatives proved to be cost prohibitive or simply, not practical (professional advice received suggested that installation of a barrier system would gridlock both East and West Looe during busy times) The decision was therefore taken to involve a ‘third party’ contractor, one who was totally impartial, had the resources available to follow the process through and who would discourage payment avoidance and illegal parking practices on LHC land.
Parking penalties have been imposed from contractual onset, to act as a punitive deterrent.
AS Parking personnel operate under well-established guide lines which eliminate any form of judgement call. LHC have also empowered their own onsite team to issue Parking Charge Notifications, which they do so by adhering to the same guidelines as those followed by AS parking operatives.
Large signs are displayed in numerous locations across LHC car parks stating ‘A parking charge notification will be issued for the sum of £100 if your vehicle is present without a valid ticket displayed face up on the dashboard, enabling all of the printed information to be inspected’
These charges are governed by strict guidelines laid down by the International Parking Community Organisation (to which AS Parking are signatories).
It should also be noted that the penalty charge is reduced to £60 if payment is made within 14 days of the issue of the notice to a driver.
The fining system is extremely ‘Black and White’. Failure to ‘pay and display WILL result in a parking charge notification.
For those who do pay, it is common knowledge that a ‘grace period’ of 10 minutes is given in all LHC car parks, after a ticket has expired and prior to a penalty notice being given (by either LHC staff or AS parking).
However, our research has shown that a number of local people still fail to pay and display, the majority of these being people trying to take advantage of the 10 minute ‘grace period’ whilst going to adjacent shops or banks. For the sake of a £1 ticket these people are prepared to risk receiving a potential fine of £100.
As part of ongoing investigations, LHC management staff requested and were granted, full access to the appeal system operated by AS Parking. The purpose of this exercise was to gauge the validity of the process and for LHC management to act as impartial observers into claims of ‘unfair’ ticketing practices.
A number of appeals were fully investigated by LHC management. This included independent review of; CCTV footage, digital stills, number plate recognition procedures and direct liaisons with the people involved. It was ascertained that 100% of the tickets issued were fully justified. A detailed report was produced as a result. This exercise proved that AS Parking continue to carry out their duties as they were initially contracted to do and that a number of issues socially described as ‘poor practice’ were in fact, fully justifiable actions.
The conclusion of this exercise was that the appeal system was effective and fair for ‘genuine’ appellants.
To seek clarification of ‘other’ issues raised during these investigations, the Managing Director of AS Parking was invited to meet with; The Chief Executive/Harbour Master, Assistant Harbour Master, members of the Car Park Committee and car park staff.
The main areas of discussion (and the conclusions reached) were as follows;
- AS Parking do not have a visible presence when operating on LHC property.
Result- AS Parking have agreed to the wearing of correctly liveried high visibility (blue and reflective) clothing when operating on site.
- Lack of Liveried vehicles and the use of private vehicles by AS Parking operatives whilst conducting enforcement actions.
Result – All AS Parking vehicles will be correctly marked up when operating on site. If for whatever reason, private vehicles have to be used, they will be fitted with magnetic signage indicating that they are on official business.
- Lack of reporting ‘on site’ before enforcement commences – so that AS Parking operatives can be updated of any ‘out of the ordinary’ circumstances.
Result – All AS Parking operatives will report onsite from now on as a matter of course.
- Clear and legible signage in respect of IAS appeals Ombudsmen and the IPC complaints system.
Result – It has been proposed that when new signage is produced, all logos will be of a standardised height of approximately 45 mm.
- Lack of Interpersonal skills and the public representation by AS Parking operatives when conducting business on LHC property.
Result – To be monitored by both LHC and AS Parking.
- Lengthy response times from AS Parking with regards to appeals.
Result – AS Parking have assured LHC that when an appeal is lodged via formal channels (IAS etc.) that appeal applicants will not be chased for payment until their appeal has been fully processed. This does come with the caveat that if the findings go against the appellant then the full charge of £100 will be imposed.
The notion of alternate and easier ‘cashless’ parking is now being investigated by the Commissioners.
At a recent meeting of the Commissioners, a majority vote concluded that AS Parking will continue to act alongside LHC staff, as a ‘third party contractor’ for the foreseeable future. This will ensure that the Commissioners receive appropriate payment for the services that it provides.
Customers using LHC car parks do so by choice. They are neither being forced nor cajoled to come onto private land.
Each year, Harbour charges are reviewed to ensure that they remain in line with other similar service providers and that ‘fair and reasonable’ fees are applied for the services being offered.
Prominent signage clearly stipulates that people should ‘seek alternative parking if you do not wish to accept the potential charges’. This also includes all stipulated penalties.
The Looe Harbour Commissioners are not indifferent to public opinion and will continue to monitor the service being provided by AS Parking on Harbour owned property. Assurance is hereby given, that appropriate action will be taken if it is deemed to be warranted and justifiable.
It is hoped that this statement has clarified the position of LHC with regards to the service provided by AS Parking and its operation within the Harbour Car Parks.
Patrons should be reminded that both the East and West Looe Harbour car parks operate a ‘no concessions’ policy and are ‘PAY AND DISPLAY’ car parks!
PARKING CHARGE NOTIFICATION ADVICE
If you have received a Parking Charge Notification and wish to appeal the circumstances in which it was applied, please follow the attached flowchart to determine the validity of your appeal.
In all circumstances, your first point of appeal will be to the parking contractor A&S PARKING SERVICES who have issued the fixed Parking Charge Notification.
For assistance, appeals and further advice (including complaints against the Parking Operating Company), please see below.
A&S Parking Services
Primary contact point for initial appeal of a Parking Charge Notification issued at East or West Looe Car Parks -www.as-parking.co.uk.
The Independent Appeal Service
An independent body set up to investigate parking charge notification appeals- www.theias.org.
Parking On Private Land Appeals
Specifically set up to investigate parking charge notifications on private grounds-www.popla.co.uk.
The International Parking Community
For complaints directed specifically at the Parking Charge Operating Company-www.theipc.info.