A Sizeable Problem: Council Shrinks Parking Bays and Fines Drivers for Parking Outside Them
In a story that could be filed under 'you couldn’t make it up', it has been revealed that at least one council has been decreasing the size of its parking bays and then fining drivers whose cars overhang the white lines of the bay.
The government designed the standard size of a UK parking bay back in 1994, recommending that they be no smaller than 2.4 metres wide by 4.8 metres long. Sadly, however, at least one council has been found to be painting car bays that are far smaller.
West Berkshire Council has been caught out by a local resident, Stan Green, who visited a number of car parks in Newbury armed with a simple measuring tape. He found that 90% of car parking bays in the town did not measure up to the government’s recommended sizes. In fact, some of these parking spaces were up to a metre smaller than they should be. West Berkshire Council fined 142 drivers £50 each for parking outside of their diminutive bays in the last year alone, raking in a total of £7,100 in the process. Now Mr Green, a former architect, is demanding that the council pay that money back to the motorists affected.
According to Mr Green, some of the council parking bays were not big enough even to accommodate a Mini, making one wonder how the driver of an average car is expected to park legally in the bays. Indeed, Mr Green found that around a third of vehicles in the town were not parked wholly in their bays, leaving a huge number of drivers open to council fines. Mr Green failed to find a single parking bay that was large enough to accommodate a large saloon or 4x4.
Transport chiefs at West Berkshire Council, who are responsible for marking out the parking bays and managing the town’s parking enforcement officers, accepted that their parking spaces were smaller than the sizes recommended by government, but they refused to put up any signs warning drivers. Instead, they insisted that they would continue to rely on their parking officers’ discretion when it came to deciding whether or not to issue a parking notice. West Berkshire Council's head of highways and transport, Mark Edwards, said that he would not be putting up any signs to alert drivers and had no plans to repaint the parking bays to the correct size. He also said that the council would not be issuing parking officers with any special instructions on the matter. He insisted that these officers were able to use their discretion on the matter when deciding whether or not to issue a parking notice. He did not say whether these officers had received any particular training or guidance on how to use that discretion.
Mr Green took a dim view of the council’s response to his investigation but said that the situation looked as if it was the result of council incompetence rather than a deliberate policy to hoodwink motorists. He did point out that it only required a tape measure, some paint and a brush and a willingness to do a proper job in order to rectify the situation.
In another parking story, one car has been towed away after racking up parking fines of £14,000. The Mercedes saloon was parked in a multi-story car park in the centre of Birmingham and left there for three years. In that time, in addition to the £14,000 worth of fines, it also accumulated a layer of dust two inches thick. An investigation traced the owner of the vehicle to an address in Coventry, but that owner has not responded to any attempts by the parking company to get in touch. The parking company was eventually given permission by the council to tow the car away, and the black Mercedes, which cost £40,000 new, will now be sold for its scrap value.