April 11: Rip-off Haworth car park firm preying on visitors

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From: G O’Donnell, Giggleswick, Settle.

I AM hoping that via your letters page I can raise awareness of a situation which is clearly doing a serious disservice to the reputation of a Yorkshire town.

On Easter Monday, I had the pleasure of visiting Haworth and, as the town was crowded, did not park in the car park we normally use but parked in a car park on North Street. At that point we had assumed that it was a council car park. We were about nine minutes late on returning, owing to quite legitimate mitigating circumstances, and had therefore thought that the new 10 minute rule would apply.

However, on returning to the car park, the attendant actually watched us cross the car park and as we approached the vehicle placed a ticket on the windscreen. When we tried to explain the reason for our delay and claim the 10 minute rule, the attendant refused to listen and demanded £60 from us on the spot or face a penalty of £100. We asked him for ID – still assuming that this was a legitimate parking penalty and he refused to give this. At this point we left, as clearly had this been a legitimate situation then ID would have been carried.

On returning home, we took legal advice and discovered that the ticket was in fact a private charge by a private company and not legally enforceable.

However, what is worrying is that we were not the only car which had been ticketed as the attendant was clearly waiting and watching for returning owners.

While we do not dispute the right of any individual to make a living from a legitimate business practice. What this company is doing is not legitimate. A private firm operating a car park can only legally ask for recompense equal to the amount of money they have lost if people overstay the agreed time – i.e. to compensate them for taking up the space and preventing another car from parking there.

In order to incur a penalty charge of £60, a vehicle would have to have prevented another car from parking for 60 hours – not nine minutes.

Clearly the practices which this firm is employing are going to leave a very sour taste with many visitors. I therefore felt it important to draw attention to this in the hope of ensuring that other members of the public don’t fall prey to this.

This company only needs to persuade five visitors a day that they have a right to do this in order for them to clear a minimum of £2,100 per week – this would equate to £109,200 per annum and would also equate to a lot of visitors who will no longer feel quite so warmly about Yorkshire hospitality.