A healthcare worker has warned about the actions of private parking firms in Exeter after she was allegedly fined within seconds of leaving her car to return a visitor’s permit.
Clare Rumford, 37, who works in the city, parked in a private car park to make a regular call at the home of an elderly client at Shilhay, Commercial Road.
She was “shocked” to receive a parking charge in the post from Premier Park Ltd (PPL) despite apparently displaying the permit throughout her visit to the retirement accommodation near the quay.
“I must have been targeted in the minute or so it would have taken me to give the visitor’s permit back to the service user,” she said.
Ms Rumford chose to ignore the letter, but later paid a fine of £150 after the city-based company threatened her with court action if she refused to give them money.
“It’s disgusting to know they can get away with giving someone a ticket when they are helping elderly and vulnerable people in the community,” she said.
The PCN was issued in October at a time when she was visiting the client twice-a-week, and it was her first parking charge in 20 years.
“It’s not what you expect to happen when you are doing a job. Now it’s always in the back of my head, and I worry wherever I park,” she added.
She is not the only person to be given a parking fine by a private firm, despite allegedly displaying a valid ticket or permit.
Fellow care worker Kathleen Matthews is fighting a parking ticket she received despite apparently having a support worker’s sign on her car dashboard.
In 2012 the Echo’s Fair Fines campaign highlighted the problem of what was perceived as excessive fines handed out by private parking contractors working in the city.
The campaign led to the introduction of independent appeals body called Popla (Parking on Private Land Appeals), if people have no success appealing to a parking firm.
According to Devon County Council’s enforcement legislation for public parking, a parking charge exemption exists for “any vehicle used by social workers, care and voluntary workers delivering essential services to residents”.
A PPL spokesman said: “We can confirm that Ms Rumford never made any contact with us, or the Independent Appeals System to dispute this charge at any stage.
“By choosing the incorrect advice to ignore this charge, the costs escalated from the reduced charge of £60.00, if any appeal had been made and not upheld, to the aforementioned £150.00.
“We would also make clear that there were no 'carer permits' or similar displayed in the windscreen and that our patrol officer was in attendance for a minimum of 5 minutes before the charge was issued.”