Motorists see red over market parking bays

Empty spaces and misleading signage

Empty spaces and misleading signage - Credit: Archant

Irate motorists penalised for parking in spaces used twice a week by market traders in a city centre car park have hit out at a tightening up of the rules without any communication with users.

Gombards misleading signage

Gombards misleading signage - Credit: Archant

Last week many regular users of the Gombards car park in St Albans received Penalty Charge Notices (PCNs) for parking in spaces set aside for market traders on Wednesdays and Saturdays.

Until then, a notice had said that parking would be reduced on market days but there was no specific restriction imposed on the public that they could not be used.

The market bays were painted red recently but it appeared they could still be used by anyone. Signage finally went up this week - but it does not specifically reference the red bays.

Local businessman Phil Blackwell and two of his colleagues were among those who received PCNs for parking on the trader-designated spaces last week.

Phil, an annual permit holder, said: “We have since become aware, with no communication from the council, that to park in these bays now requires a dedicated market trader permit.

He pointed out that meant that two-thirds of the car park was dedicated exclusively to the market traders on the two days leaving only 30 spaces for all the public vehicles to park in.

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Those remaining public spaces were further limited by a tree blocking access to one of the bays and building work to a nearby property with the loss of a further six spaces.

Phil said: “My annual permit costs over £700 per year. When I bought it last September, it was under the impression that I could park in the entire car park every day of the week.

“Now this is severely restricted on two of those days. They should not be able to change the rules when permits were purchased with no restrictions.”

He pointed out that the market traders only used around 30 per cent of the car park and arrived earlier than 7am. Motorists left to use only the public spaces would struggle to get one.

Michael Lovelady, St Albans council’s head of legal, democratic and regulatory services, said that Gombards has become increasingly popular with city centre visitors but it was also traditionally the car park used by market traders on Wednesdays and Saturdays with spaces set aside for them on those days.

He went on: “The signs making this clear had become worn over time and other motorists had started to use the spaces, seemingly unaware of the restrictions.

“We have now updated the signs and also marked out the reserved spaces with red lines. We are now in the process of enforcing the restrictions.”

Mr Lovelady said that a handful of PCNs had been issued but it had been decided to cancel them to give car park users more time to get used to the arrangement.