Walton Hall Gardens Car Parking Fiasco.

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A few months ago, my missus took our little boy to the gardens at Walton Hall, near Warrington. She came home in a bit of a temper (even more than usual), because the car park attendant had stuck a Penalty Charge Notice under the windscreen wiper blade while she was playing with our son in the park. Now, you can rest assured that there are no circumstances in which she’d try to get out of paying the ¬£3.20 parking charge. We are what you might call ‘people that follow the rules’, but we expect fair treatment in return. And we get a bit miffed when we don’t feel that we are getting it.

According to the PCN, she had failed to correctly identify our vehicle when buying the ticket. She’s only human, so there is every chance that she made a mistake when typing in the numbers – especially while trying to keep our boy under control (he’s a bit of a handful). On the other hand, she does have a Ph.D, and is quite used to operating scientific equipment. Maybe the machine was faulty? She says there were plenty of confused people there in the machine queue, since there didn’t seem to be a way of checking what you’d typed in, or correcting any mistakes, real or imagined.

Our immediate reaction was to appeal by email. It was rejected almost immediately. I now realise that rejection is routine in these cases. Searching online, I found the forums at http://forums.pepipoo.com . Reading some of the messages revealed a whole new world to me. It seems as if there is an ongoing battle between the motorists and the various parking authorities that operate in the UK. Now, I’ve no time for people who try to avoid paying when everyone else does, but it did seem that some of these organisations are trying to catch even honest people out.

Anyway, I posted a message, and someone replied who had seen the relevant Traffic Order for the car park. It turns out that the Traffic Order is extrememly important in these cases. Basically, if the traffic order doesn’t say that you have to identify the vehicle when you buy the ticket, then there is no legal requirement to do so. Just displaying a sign saying that you have to do it doesn’t, apparently, change things.

So, that is basically what I put in my appeal when I received the NTO, or Notice To Owner (you can be sure that we weren’t going to just roll over and accept this). I told them that I’d seen the Traffic Order, and that it didn’t contain a requirement to identify the vehicle; only to pay for the ticket and display it. Fortunately for us, they accepted our¬†appeal, and cancelled the PCN. Did they cancel it out of kindness? Or did they not want to have to take this to the next step of adjudication, and be shown up for trying to enforce something that wasn’t legally binding? We’ll probably never know. But if anyone else finds themselves in this situation, I’d certainly advise them to appeal, just out of principle.

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