A TRIUMPHANT motorist feels “vindicated” after overturning a penalty charge imposed by a company enforcing a controversial parking restriction by a shopping parade.
Philip Nippard defeated Britannia Parking in court after it penalised him for over-staying the 20-minute limit at New Milton’s Old Milton Green car park, off the A337 Christchurch Road.
As reported in the A&T, several motorists have fallen foul of the camera-controlled restriction since it came into force about two years ago.
Britannia had been hired as enforcers by the car park’s landlord, a businessman largely based in London who also owns the building that hosts the Launderama laundrette in the parade.
Mr Nippard (67) and his wife Caroline parked their Kia Ceed in the car park to have a meal at The Raj Indian restaurant on the evening of 13th December 2017.
“It was a dark, cold and wet night, and we drove into the car park from Southern Way, which is a one-way road,” he recalled to the A&T.
“We went into the entrance right by The Raj, which was later changed to exit only.”
Pointing out the first he knew of the 20-minute restriction was when he received the penalty charge notice in the post just over a week later, Mr Nippard argued the signage had not been visible in the dark.
This, he said, was in breach of guidelines issued by the British Parking Association, of which Britannia claims to be an accredited member.
The letter, telling him his vehicle had been caught exceeding the 20-minute parking restriction, said he was liable for a £100 penalty which could be reduced to £60 if he paid within a limited time.
In his evidence for the hearing at Bournemouth County Court, Mr Nippard argued the signs were positioned past what was then the car park’s entrance from Southern Lane. It also did not face the entrance and was obscured by the background lighting of the surrounding area, he said.
Along with photographs he had taken of the car park, he told how the restriction signs were all non-illuminated and positioned along the roadside perimeter wall. He argued this meant they were not easily visible at night from the shopping parade side.
“It’s almost like entrapment,” Mr Nippard told the A&T.
“There is no way you can see the signs from where they are located and where you are stood. I went back there and took pictures and thought I would fight it.
“What they [Britannia Parking] want you to do is pay the £60 to get it out of the way, and in hindsight that might have been the easier thing to do. But if you think something is wrong – I thought it was wrong and it was proved wrong in court – you have to stand up for what you think is right and have your day.”
Following the initial PCN letter from Britannia, Mr Nippard said he was inundated with demands from various debt collection agencies including BW Legal to pay up.
These started with two calls by BW Legal to the landline at the couple’s home in Thetchers Close, when he was asked to provide his bank account details so they could collect the fee.
However, he refused, arguing he was not prepared to surrender such personal information to a cold caller. He added he did not know how the firm got his number.
“I told them on the second call, ‘If you don’t desist, I will report you for harassment’. They stopped calling after that, but the letters continued.
“I think it’s just really over the top for what is really a minor offence. You wouldn’t get this for doing 35mph in a 30mph limit, so it’s really ridiculous!
“You’re put under an enormous amount of strain and stress to get a result.”
Mr Nippard went on to ignore the letters’ repeated demands to provide his bank details so the money could be taken, with the promise that no further action would be taken against him. He also decided not to launch any appeal proceedings, feeling this would be an acknowledgement of guilt.
The amount of money demanded fluctuated up and down over the course of these letters, sent by DRP, Zenith, SCS Law and then BW Legal which had said the sums also covered costs. Starting at £160, it went back down to £100 before finally two demands were made for £242.45.
BW Legal then instigated the court proceedings in a further letter, which Mr Nippard accepted, but he said these proceedings took about five months to get to the hearing.
Concluding his evidence for the case, he had said: “I would state that I did not see any of the signs on the night of the 13th December 2017, I would also state that there was no intention on my part to flout the newly-imposed parking restrictions that had only been installed a few days before.
“For these reasons I did not knowingly enter into any form of contract with Britannia Parking when entering the car park and I am therefore not prepared to pay the cost demanded by BW Legal or others.”
Mr Nippard expressed his astonishment that after going through the lengthy proceedings for the court case, the hearing itself lasted less than half an hour before the judge ruled in his favour.
“It’s an amazing feeling that at last I got some vindication for what I thought was right,” he said.
Responding to the A&T’s questions regarding Mr Nippard’s victory in challenging its claim, Britannia Parking maintained it was a “responsible” regulator. It also insisted all its car parks operated in accordance with the guidelines set out by the BPA.
“The Old [Milton] Green Parade car park in New Milton is operated using an ANPR system and has a maximum stay of 20 minutes,” a spokesperson said.
“It is one of a number of car parks at which we operate the ANPR system.
“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.”