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A woman has shared her frustration after being “wrongly accused” of parking in a pub car park for more than eight hours. However, she claims she only twice stopped there for a matter of minutes to collect and drop off her grandchildren.
Sue Bennett, 74, claims she appealed the £60 fine on three occasions – all of which she says were rejected – and feared she may be taken to court until CheshireLive received confirmation that the fine was to be “cancelled”.
She had parked at The Tollemache Arms in Alpraham at 8.20am on August 15 to meet her daughter in order to look after her two grandchildren for the day.
Mrs Bennett said she then left the car park, which has a maximum stay of two hours, about ten minutes later to return to her home in Tattenhall. She then drove back to the pub shortly before 5pm to drop the boys off with their dad.
However, when she received her fine from Smart Parking Ltd, which operates the car park, it was accompanied by two camera images showing her arriving at 8.20am and then departing at 4.56pm. Mrs Bennett says there should also be images of her leaving the car park in the morning and then re-entering later that day.
She says she has receipts showing she paid for shopping and fuel at Sainsbury’s in Chester later that day, and even has a video on her mobile phone of both her grandchildren eating breakfast as well as text messages she sent to her daughter – one of which confirmed the arrangements for dropping off the two boys.
“Some people have said ‘why don’t you just pay it’ – I don’t want to pay out money I don’t have,” Mrs Bennett told CheshireLive, prior to the fine being cancelled. “I’m a 74-year-old grandmother, I’ve never had a conviction in my life. This is now nothing to do with the fine but to uphold the principle of honesty.”
Mrs Bennett added: “I appealed to Smart Parking explaining why I was there, which was to meet my daughter who was passing my grandchildren, aged 5 and 6, over to me in a safe area along the busy A51 to look after for the day, and then returning to the car park passing them back to their father on his way home from work at around 5pm.
“In neither instance was I there for more than 10 minutes. This appeal was rejected on the basis that their cameras showed me arriving at 8.20am and leaving at 16.56pm but not showing me leaving in between. I then appealed to POPLA who is an independent adjudication service.
“My second appeal was rejected on the same basis, the camera only showed two photos. I appealed for the third time through POPLA, and this has just been rejected. This I believe is the last time I can appeal. I’m not quite sure what happens now, I presume they will take me to court if I don’t pay.
“This is now nothing to do with the fine but to uphold the principal of honesty. Each rejection was based on the fact their camera did not show me leaving in the morning, nor arriving in the afternoon.”
She added: “According to Smart Parking they claim every accessible entry and exit point to this car park is managed by either an entry or exit camera which takes an infrared image of the vehicle registration as it passes by. Also when I spoke to the management of the Tollemache Arms a few days after this PCN was issued, he stated that the car park is covered 24 hours by these cameras.
“The following is one of POPLA’S comments: ‘Independent research has found that ANPR technology is generally reliable. I appreciate that there is the possibility for inaccuracies’. These cameras are not 100% accurate, whereas my words are.
“My bank statement for the day in question actually shows I had been in Sainsbury’s shopping and paying for that at 9.56am, and then on to Sainsbury’s petrol station paying for fuel at 10.08am on the day in question filling up my car.”
After approaching Smart Parking about the fine, the company said they had experienced issues with people tampering with the cameras. They also confirmed that after a “detailed investigation of all available information”, Mrs Bennett’s fine is to be “cancelled”.
A Smart Parking spokesperson said: “Smart Parking has been employed to manage the car park at the Tollemache Arms in order to address significant parking abuse and to insure genuine customers of the premises can always find somewhere to park.
“In regard to the site itself, nefarious activity by some individuals have seen the cameras tampered with, balloons put in place to cover the cameras and vehicles situated so that incorrect images are taken. As such, we continue to monitor the site closely.
“We would remind all motorists to always closely check the terms and condition of use before driving onto private land and parking.
“However, in this particular case and following the detailed investigation of all available information, this charge was cancelled.”
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