Sunny weather brings parking blitz on motorists
MORE than 50 motorists were issued with fines on Saturday in a ticketing blitz which saw up to four parking attendants turn up mob-handed to book vehicles in a council car park. Westminster Lodge, which has three separate car parks, was packed on Saturday
MORE than 50 motorists were issued with fines on Saturday in a ticketing blitz which saw up to four parking attendants turn up mob-handed to book vehicles in a council car park.
Westminster Lodge, which has three separate car parks, was packed on Saturday because of a combination of a Victorian music hall at the Abbey Theatre, Zippo's Circus on the meadow and the first warm, sunny weather of the year.
Many motorists were ticketed because they had parked outside marked bays even though they had no choice because if one vehicle does so, it pushes them all out of the prescribed spaces.
Others got tickets for parking on grass verges in the car parks - and most were displaying their three-hour free parking tickets.
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St Albans resident Howard Dewhurst was parked in the Westminster Lodge car park on Saturday afternoon.
He pointed out that parking was at a premium in the surrounding area because of the activities at Westminster Lodge and the fact that it was the warmest day of the year.
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He went on: "People parked their cars in every available space. It is good to think St Albans can attract visitors in such number.
"Everything was fine, people were enjoying themselves until an official from NCP decided that he would start issuing Parking Charge Notices to motorists in Westminster Lodge car park for any small misdemeanour."
He saw at least 12 notices and pointed out that at no time was access constrained or public safety compromised.
Herts Advertiser photographer Dave Harris who was working at the Abbey Theatre in the afternoon said the car parks were especially busy because of the circus.
He saw vehicles that appeared to be perfectly properly parked with tickets on them and was wondering why cars parked in the main central verge had not been ticketed when three more wardens appeared and started booking them.
Dave warned that it was likely that people who had been ticketed would stay away in future and added: "All that effort wasted, well done St Albans, another own goal."
Labour district councillor and prospective Parliamentary candidate Roma Mills thought that what was really behind it was the council's shortfall in revenue from parking penalties.
She said: "What really bothers me is that instead of the parking system working in a co-operative way, it is being used as a fundraiser. There does seem to be a very robust approach which is raising money for salaries.
"What there is missing in the whole of this is any ability to exercise discretion or make judgements."
A spokesperson for the district council confirmed that 51 tickets had been issued between 9.52am and 4.43pm on Saturday and four civil enforcement officers were there some of the time because of the large number of cars parked outside the bay markings and in restricted areas.
She added: "Some of these were displaying valid pay-and-display tickets but were in contravention of the rules by parking on the access road, on turning circles and grassed and paved areas.
"Many of these cars were blocking the access road and would have stopped emergency vehicles getting through if needed."
The spokesperson pointed out that while the shortage of parking on Saturday was regretted, drivers had a responsibility to allow sufficient time to park correctly. The lack of parking could not be used as an excuse for parking incorrectly.
She added: "Any inquiries received from the public following receipt of a penalty will be considered on its individual merits.