£200 parking fine puts St Albans man in a flap

PUBLISHED: 12:46 27 February 2009 | UPDATED: 13:57 06 May 2010

CHANGEABLE car parking terms in St Albans city centre have cost one one man more than £200 in fines even though he holds an annual permit. Nick Howes, aged 55, of Heritage Close, has a 12-month parking permit which should allow him to park in designated c

sign on wall opposite-as hinged sign in other positioni

CHANGEABLE car parking terms in St Albans city centre have cost one one man more than £200 in fines even though he holds an annual permit.

Nick Howes, aged 55, of Heritage Close, has a 12-month parking permit which should allow him to park in designated city-centre spaces for any period of time.

But when Mr Howes left his car in a Romeland Hill space for a week while on holiday last December, he returned to find it plastered with parking tickets.

Said Mr Howes, who lives in a flat with his wife Sue: "I parked there in good faith over the Christmas period when the signage confirmed 24-hour parking was allowed. But the sign changed while I was away, causing me to be in an invalid space."

sign with central hinge

The parking signs in question display one set of terms and conditions and hide another by means of a hinged flap.

While Mr Howes was away, the traffic warden changed the meter so it displayed the second set of terms which bans parking in the area from 3.30-5.30pm so that coaches can pick up pupils from St Albans School.

Mr Howes said that his first instinct was to contact St Albans District Council to check the parking rules for permit holders: "I rang on a general inquiry basis and the council confirmed that permit holders were not subject to a fine if the conditions changed after they had parked their car."

But a couple of weeks later in early January, the signs were changed again and his parked car was ticketed two days in a row. He has now incurred fines of more than £200 but after several complaints to the council, he has been offered a 50 per cent discount.

Mr Howes said: "It's a crazy system and I don't think any permit holders are aware of the council's ability to alter back and forth the terms of a parking area by means of a changeable hinged sign."

He added: "Residents can't guess when conditions will change; it should be the council's responsibility to forewarn us so we don't come back to a car littered with unjust tickets."

Mr Howes said that to make matters worse, the signs were also often hard to spot: "They are obscured by even the smallest of vans or estate cars and in dim light they are almost impossible to find."

A council spokesperson said that the Romeland Hill parking bays had restrictions on them because of their close proximity to St Albans School.

She added: "Those bays running adjacent to the wall of Romeland Gardens now have a 'variable restriction' which applies to coaches during term time only."

She said: "If someone has an annual parking permit and knows that they are likely to be parked in a space for some time while they are away, it would be better to park where restrictions are not variable.

"The reason why he was given 50 per cent off his parking fine when he appealed is because if a challenge is received within the discount period, the authority can re-offer the discount normally given for payment received within 14 days.

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