Thursday, 23 September 2021

Volunteer driver threatened with court over fine

Cameras to monitor hospital car park to stop abuse of spaces

A VOLUNTEER driver has been threatened with court action over a parking fine he received at Townlands Memorial Hospital in Henley.

John Fryer was given a ticket in the car park of the hospital off York Road  while taking an elderly woman to an appointment just before Christmas.

But he didn’t find out about it until the new year, when he he received a letter from a debt collection agency demanding payment of £160 or he would face legal proceedings.

Mr Fryer, who is a member of the Twyford, Wargrave and District Volunteer Centre, is refusing to pay, saying the fine was unfair.

The hospital uses automatic number plate recognition cameras run by enforcement company Smart Parking to monitor use of the car park.

Patients have to enter their 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 people off.

However, there have been numerous compaints about the system and of unfair fines in a repeat of what happened when Smart Parking also enforced the car park for the neighbouring GP surgeries until it was effectively sacked following a string of complaints.

Mr Fryer, of the Walled Garden, Wargrave, drove the woman to her appointment on December 19 and entered his details at reception with the help of staff before parking in a space for about an hour. He believed this was satisfactory until he received the letter two weeks later.

Mr Fryer said: “I am one of the volunteer drivers which means I go where I’m sent with old ladies and men.

“When you drive into the car park there’s nothing that says you must register your car but I did it anyway and the staff at reception helped me. I did everything I should do.

“But the letter said that because I hadn’t paid the £160 they would be taking proceedings.”

He returned to the hospital and spoke to the manager Stephanie Greenwood, who told him that she would ask for the fine to be cancelled as well as adding his details to a list of pre-approved drivers and vehicles so that the same thing wouldn’t happen again.

However, since then Mr Fryer has received two further letters from the debt collectors, including one saying that prosecution proceedings would begin.

He said:  “I’ll go to court. I have no intention of paying. The hospital say they have sorted it but that didn’t stop the latest letter.”

Mr Fryer, who is retired and has been a volunteer driver for two months, says he has informed the Wargrave office about his fine as he doesn’t want other volunteers to have the same experiemce.

He said: “Nothing is regular with volunteer drivers. I’ve been to Townlands three times and I also happen to have a hearing aid so I sometimes go on my own.

“I think this is quite disgusting. They pay debt collectors so it stands that they must make money out of it. They are penalising volunteers — it’s harassment.”

An NHS Property Services spokesman said: “The Smart Parking system has helped ensure free spaces are available for hospital patients.

“However, we are listening to the concerns raised by local people and will continue to request improvements from Smart Parking.

“Unless we are satisfied that Smart Parking can bring in solutions, we will consider alternative parking management arrangements.”

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