The 300 people who signed Shipley Branch Labour Party’s petition to force Smart Parking Ltd to review their fines against users of the Oastler Road car park in Saltaire, will undoubtedly be pleased to hear that the company has no right to operate there.
Many residents we spoke to were angry that Smart Parking has been able to make profit from extortionate fines by using the public DVLA database of number plates.
Most of the businesses along Bingley Road served by Oastler Road car park signed our petition. Four of the businesses which include the Saltaire Co-op kept the petition for their customers to sign. They have been incensed that customers have been stung by unfair fines and are keeping away.
The Smart Parking operation has made a point of fining drivers for not displaying a ticket for the free first 20 minutes, for going even one minute over the period for which they do have tickets, and even for driving through the car park and not stopping. The car park fines are driven by automatic number plate recognition coupled with the company’s access to DVLA’s database of the address registered to each number plate.
£100 fines are reduced to £60 if paid within 28 days, with the threat that an appeal might delay the process and result in the full fine being payable.
Smart Parking’s website insists its operation is legal, citing a case in which the judge said that the parking company had an interest in “an income from the charge which met the running costs of a legitimate scheme and a profit margin.” What everyone calls a fine is legally called a ‘charge’. The judgement confirms that Smart Parking gains all its income and profits from fines, not from the ticket income which goes to the landowner, Saltaire Investments.
It is immoral, if not yet illegal, that Smart Parking’s incentive for profit is entirely to issue and recover fines. Of course, all political parties and many community groups including a dedicated Facebook site for Saltaire Car Park have objected to Smart Parking’s operations. It is ironic that conservative MP Philip Davies protested in favour of reasonable car parking policy, the same MP that blocked a proposal in Parliament for free hospital car parking for carers. Googling reveals other protests in Scotland, East Anglia, Luton about other Smart Parking sites.
The news that the car park operation on Oastler Road has been declared illegal on a technicality – the Council never declared the change of use from highway to car park – is a victory for residents. Bradford Council and its executive member responsible for highways, Cllr Alex Ross-Shaw, are to be congratulated for confessing the mistake and for demanding that Smart Parking Ltd returns all fines as they were made illegally. We now hope that the Council can find ways of restoring the car park without a system of fines which put people off visiting local shops.
The petition was sent to Bradford Council, Smart Parking Ltd, and to the Department for Transport, which oversees the DVLA asking:
– Smart Parking to remove their fines for parking less than 20 minutes, reduce their fines for other ‘offences’, and adhere to the industry ‘grace’ periods.
– Bradford Council to publicise this company’s disrespect of the District’s residents and businesses, warn other Councils, and offer the land-owner to run the carpark again.
– Government to remove access to DVLA from companies who make indecent profit out of a public service.
Ludi Simpson, Campaign Coordinator, Shipley Branch Labour Party 15 Oct 2017