Monday, 15 August 2022

Parking fine dubbed 'draconian'

PEOPLE caught out by the new parking restricting at the Henley GP surgeries should not face “draconian” penalties, says a town councillor.

Ian Reissmann spoke out after drivers were fined incorrectly for allegedly breaching the new rules at the car park for the Bell and Hart surgeries off York Road.

The new system came into effect on April 10 and requires patients to enter their vehicle’s registration details on a touchpad at reception to receive a maximum of 90 minutes of free parking.

The car park is monitored by Smart Parking, which uses automatic numberplate recognition to track vehicles going in and out of the car park and also includes a 15-minute grace period for drivers dropping off or picking up other people which doesn’t require any details to be entered. A similar system is also in use at the neighbouring Townlands Memorial Hospital and Chilterns Court care centre, although at the hospital the length of stay is unlimited once the details have been entered and the grace period is 20 minutes.

However, several drivers have been hit with parking fines despite following the rules.

Last week, the Henley Standard reported how the husband of a patient was issued with a £100 ticket despite insisting he entered his details correctly.

Dr Nigel Geary spent just 10 minutes in the car park while his wife Natalie, who has a long-term condition, entered his car’s registration details at reception of the Bell surgery. Six days later, he received a penalty notice, telling him he was being fined £100 for failing to enter his car’s details.

When he protested to the surgery he was told they had received a “stack” of similar complaints.

The penalty was later cancelled by Smart Parking.

Councillor Ian Reissmann, who chairs the Townlands Steering Group, has written to health chiefs and the surgeries about the parking issue at the Townlands campus.

He said he supported restrictions that stopped shoppers abusing the car park but was worried that the penalties were too severe.

Cllr Reissmann said: “There is a serious problem for the surgeries during opening hours and we support the proposals to control and restrict parking.

“However, it does seem draconian to impose £100 fines for all apart from the disabled, frail and elderly after 15 minutes.

“Given the sensitivity of parking generally in Henley, it would make sense for all the stakeholders to work together on a mutually agreeable solution to the parking issues on the Townlands site.”

In a joint statement, the surgeries said: “The Bell and Hart Surgeries wish to apologise for any upset and inconvenience caused to patients following the implementation of the new car parking enforcement in the surgeries’ car park.

“We have advertised the new system in the surgeries, on our websites and in our newsletters. The signage in the car park is plentiful and we have communicated by text and/or email to alert patients to the new system.

“There have been instances where patients have not seen the signage or not entered their details correctly on the tablet in reception to record their car registration number.

“We accept that any new system will have teething problems and we are working with Smart Parking to resolve any issues. The system was initially in a trial and testing phase. Now it is fully up and running, we hope the system will alleviate overcrowding in our car park, thus providing space for patients who really need to park close to the surgery for their appointment.

“We ask all patients to be mindful of the limited parking spaces we have and help us to prioritise parking for the frail, elderly and acutely unwell.”

Meanwhile, NHS Property Services is planning to offer parking spaces at Townlands to residents of York Road and Clarence Road overnight, with each household offered the chance to apply for a permit for one vehicle between 6pm and 8am, Monday to Friday. and all day at weekends and on public holidays.

But Cllr Reissmann said: “The restriction of one permit per household and the cut-off time of 8am means that those who park overnight may be unnecessarily inconvenienced. Forcing residents to park elsewhere overnight can only increase the parking problems faced generally.

“Given that the hospital spaces are currently underused at weekends and evening, restricting their use in the way proposed does not seem necessary or wise.”

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