Published: 31/08/2017 11:15 - Updated: 31/08/2017 11:06

Parking firm rules could be overseen by law

Written byGregor White

 

Strothers Lane
The operator of Strothers Lane car park in Inverneess has been under fire.

THE end could be in sight for sharp practices by private parking operators such as those that have been plaguing Inverness drivers for months.

Two private members bills are currently being shaped for both Westminster and the Scottish Parliament, with suggestions they are attracting broad support from governments in both places.

While East Yorkshire MP Sir Greg Knight is shaping potential new legislation for the House of Commons, Mid Scotland and Fife MSP Murdo Fraser is doing something similar in Edinburgh.

If adopted the legislation could end many of the practices that have plagued drivers here attempting to use the city centre Strothers Lane car park run by Smart Parking.

Hundreds of city drivers have found themselves pursued by the both the firm itself and debt collectors over parking charge "fines" of up to £160 for apparent breaches of car park rules.

Many claim they are being pursued even though ticket machines weren’t working; they drove in and out of the car park quickly having been unable to find a space; or they have made simple errors in inputting their registration details at ticket machines.

While private parking operators work to rules set by their own trade bodies, the new rules would be accompanied by the full force of the law.

Potential changes could see the creation of a new independent appeals service and a single industry-wide code of practice.

Fines could also be capped.

Mr Fraser, who has previously spoken about problems drivers in his constituency have also faced at the hands of Smart Parking, said: "The pressure from my own private members bill, and the experience of my constituents in Perth, has undoubtedly had a positive impact in getting the Scottish Government to act and I believe some of the proposals in my draft consultation are being explored by the government.

"I look forward to engaging with Scottish ministers and colleagues down south whilst using public feedback from my own bill to guide any legislation.

"Ultimately, the end goal is to create a level playing field and fairer conditions for motorists and I hope this two-pronged approach will allow this to happen."

Kirsty Wright, who was hit by a £100 charge from Smart Parking, welcomed the possibility of new rules being applied.

She claims lighting was so bad when she entered the Strothers Lane car park last year that she couldn’t actually read the terms and conditions displayed there.

"I’m delighted to hear they are moving things forward to put a cap on private car parking charges," she said.

"£60 reduced to £30 if paid within 14 days seems normal, so something along those lines would be fairer."

Peter Verity was also hit by a fine, despite the ticket machine apparently being faulty at the time of his visit.

He said: "I am all in favour of an independent appeals body. The present system allows Smart Parking to apply any amount of pressure through their machinery, yet the only appeal is to them via a slanted online form that does not even record your input for later checking."

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