ANOTHER motorist has celebrated overturning a penalty charge imposed by Britannia Parking which enforces a controversial restriction at a shopping parade.
Petra McGuire-Saunders, from Ashley, was penalised by the company for overstaying the 20-minute limit at New Milton’s Old Milton Green car park, off the A337 Christchurch Road.
She and her then fiancé – and now husband – Daniel Saunders had gone for a meal at The Raj Indian Restaurant to celebrate the first anniversary of their engagement.
Having had an appeal against the penalty notice dismissed and received repeated demands for payment from the firm’s solicitors since the incident on 31st October 2018, she finally won her day in court last Friday.
Mrs McGuire-Saunders successfully argued the car park restriction signs were not visible when she parked her Toyota Yaris there in the dark around 10pm that night. A regular user of the car park for about 30 years, she convinced the judge that she did not know the limit had been put in place.
“I feel vindicated and over the moon,” she told the A&T afterwards.
“It’s been a weight on my mind for over a year. We got married in March this year and that was lovely, but at the back of my mind it was there.
“To have the case dismissed was fantastic. I knew I was right, stood up for myself and justice was done.”
Previous A&T reports about the car park restriction were submitted to small claims court hearing in Southampton by Mrs McGuire-Saunders as part of her evidence in the court case, during which her husband acted as a witness.
These reports included one about businesses complaining the 20-minute limit was harming trade, and one about another motorist, Philip Nippard, who had his penalty overturned by Bournemouth County Court.
Agreeing with Mr Nippard’s comment that it would have been easier in a way to have just paid the penalty, Mrs McGuire-Saunders argued maintained the principle of the argument was important.
Praising support received from an online forum run by Money Saving Expert guru Martin Lewis, she commented hers was one of three victories last Friday against Britannia Parking that it had aided. The other two cases were heard in court at Brighton.
“The legally trained experts on the Martin Lewis forum are wonderful,” she continued. “They give their time freely, but you do have to do the research yourself and that is a lot of work.”
‘I feel vindicated’
Mrs McGuire-Saunders had decided to take the case to court after her initial appeal against the original penalty charge notice, demanding £100 or £60 if paid within a fortnight, was dismissed by Britannia Parking.
Following this decision, she received a letter from the firm’s solicitors asking her to phone them, which she did to tell them she was taking the case to court.
“I gave them my mobile number in good faith, but they then texted me every single day and called me about every three days demanding payment, which caused me some distress,” she said.
“They do have a tendency to harass you for payment. I eventually blocked their number on my phone.
“I had made it quite clear to them that I was defending my case in court and wasn’t going to pay any money to them as, as far as I was concerned, there was not contract in place.”
In line with previously reported cases, she said the amounts demanded by the solicitors fluctuated, with around £250 being the highest demand. A lower £180 was then quoted as a “final offer”.
Mrs McGuire-Saunders also argued in court that the landowner agreement for the Old Milton Green site did not show proof of entitlement to run a private parking restriction.
This was also supported in the judge’s ruling, she said.
“The judge made it clear it was for Britannia to prove that I owed them what they are claiming not for me to prove that I don’t,” explained Mrs McGuire-Saunders.
“The judge took on board everything I said. She looked at all the photos I produced along with the site plan and all the other exhibits including three A&T articles
The core issue in our defence was neither of us saw the signs as the signs were so badly positioned, not illuminated and it was dark.”
The couple are hoping their victory will help encourage other motorists who may have been unwittingly caught out by private parking restrictions to fight their corner.
Mr Saunders commented: “The most discouraging thing throughout this case has been that neither Britannia Parking nor [its solicitors] have been interested in intelligent and extended communication.
“All we ever received were robotic and impersonal replies. Whereas Britannia Parking consistently claim to be responsible car park managers, the reality at the Old Milton Green site is that they have left a wake of distress and frustration.”
In response to this latest case, a Britannia Parking spokesperson said the Old Milton Green car park is one of a number at which it operates an automatic number plate recognition camera system.
“Enforcement of a 20-minute maximum stay guards against abuse of the site and illicit parking, such as cars being left all day or abandoned,” the spokesperson continued.
“It also ensures a turnover of spaces is available in the car park and assists traffic-flow.
“We are a member of the British Parking Association and the industry’s Approved Operators Scheme. All of our signs and procedures meet the Approved Operators Code of Conduct.
“We are a responsible car park operator and manager of more than 25 years’ standing. We take our responsibilities very seriously, including the need to pursue cases through legal proceedings when necessary.”