Monday, 19 November 2018

Disabled woman unable to use parking system fined

Disabled woman unable to use parking system fined

A DISABLED woman says she has been fined £160 for parking illegally at Townlands Memorial Hospital despite asking reception staff to register her car.

Ann Dayton, 79, of Kennylands Road, Sonning Common, was fined after parking in a disabled space at the hospital in May.

Mrs Dayton, who often uses either a wheelchair or crutches to get around, says a member of staff entered her details in the keypad as she couldn’t reach but she still received the fine in the post almost two weeks later.

She refused to pay the fine, which has now been increased from the original £60 to £160, and has received a “threatening” letter from debt collectors. She has also contacted NHS Property Services, which owns the hospital, to complain.

Mrs Dayton is among dozens of patients who have complained to the Henley Standard about being issued with unfair fines, with many having been sent letters threatening them with court action if they refuse to pay.

This has led to calls for NHS Property Services to sack Smart Parking, the enforcement company which has already lost its contract for the neighbouring GP surgeries following dozens of complaints.

Smart uses automatic number plate recognition cameras to log vehicles entering and leaving the hospital car park.

Visitors have to enter their car registration details on a keypad at reception to receive free parking and there is meant to be a 20-minute grace period for those passing through or dropping off patients.

Mrs Dayton spent about 45 minutes at the hospital for an appointment. She said: “The fine letter had a photo of my car arriving and one of it leaving and you can see my disabled and wheelchair stickers in the back.

“They know me quite well at reception. I use a wheelchair and crutches and I was on crutches that day, so I find it quite difficult to punch in the numbers on the screen.

“As a pensioner it’s really obscene to expect me to find that amount of money when I had done nothing wrong. Smart Parking ought to have their contract cancelled.”

Mrs Dayton said she was shocked to receive the fine and has struggled to get in touch with Smart Parking to contest the notice.

She said: “When I got the letter I thought ‘get stuffed’. I phoned the hospital and asked what’s the point of booking a car in if this happens? I was there legitimately with an appointment but I might as well talk to the man on the moon with Smart Parking.

“Royal Berkshire Hospital has a system that allows the ticket you get on entering their car park to be cancelled at their reception, as long as you have your blue badge or equivalent. Then you can use the cancelled ticket to get out. Maybe Townlands should have a similar system?”

Douglas Featherstone, 82, of Swiss Farm, Henley, was also fined £60 after visiting the hospital in September. He says he originally thought he had entered his details correctly but couldn’t be sure as the system used a small screen touchpad at that time.

Mr Featherstone said: “I must have messed it up but I’m not used to these machines. I thought I’d put it in but they didn’t have the big screens then so maybe I didn’t press the ‘accept’ button.”

Despite sending copies of his appointment letters to Smart Parking, Mr Featherstone’s appeal was refused and he decided to pay the fine after being told it would be increased to £100 if he didn’t.

Terry and Janet Smith were fined after visiting Townlands in April. The couple, who live in Whitehall Lane, Checkendon, and run TS Cars & Son in Woodcote, spent about 45 minutes at the hospital as Mrs Smith had an eye appointment.

Mr Smith entered his car’s details on the keypad but still received the notice in the post. They refused to pay and received a letter telling them the fine had been increased to £160 and they will face court action if they do not pay. However, the fine was cancelled this week after Mr Smith contacted NHS Property Services directly to complain.

The couple returned to the hospital earlier this month and had trouble entering their registration as the system would not recognise it.

Mr Smith’s car has a personalised registration number which wasn’t accepted by the system. It was successfully entered by reception staff on their seventh attempt.

A spokesman for NHS Property Services said: “We have asked Smart Parking to change its processes in light of issues such as the one highlighted by Mrs Dayton.”

• Have you been unfairly fined for parking at Townlands? Call Henley Standard reporter Jamie Presland on (01491) 419444 or email him at jpresland@henleystandard.co.uk

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